England is one of the toughest tours for sub-continent teams, especially in the longest format. In addition to the challenges such as seam and swing, there will be an additional challenge of shining the ball with the saliva ban in place.
Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has named a 29-man squad for the difficult tour of England. The reason behind an extended squad is to prepare for the series with full-fledged practice matches by balancing the teams from within the squad.
There have been a few omissions as well as surprise inclusions in the team. Players such as Sarfaraz Ahmed, Sohail Khan, and Faheem Ashraf have made a comeback to the national side while rookie batting star, Haider Ali, has earned his debut call-up. Fawad Alam will also travel with the team and so will Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez.
Hasan Ali has missed out due to his prolonged back injury, while Haris Sohail and Mohammad Amir have opted out of the tour due to personal reasons.
Let’s have a look at Pakistan’s squad first:
|Abid Ali||Fakhar Zaman||Imam-ul-Haq||Shan Masood||Azhar Ali|
|Babar Azam||Asad Shafiq||Fawad Alam||Haider Ali||Iftikhar Ahmed|
|Khushdil Shah||Mohammad Hafeez||Shoaib Malik||Mohammad Rizwan||Sarfaraz Ahmed|
|Faheem Ashraf||Haris Rauf||Imran Khan Sr.||Mohammad Abbas||Mohammad Hasnain|
|Naseem Shah||Shaheen Shah Afridi||Sohail Khan||Usman Shinwari||Wahab Riaz|
|Imad Wasim||Kashif Bhatti||Shadab Khan||Yasir Shah|
The role-wise breakup is as follows:
Openers (4) – Abid Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, and Shan Masood.
Middle-Order Batsmen (9) – Azhar Ali (Test captain), Babar Azam (T20I captain), Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Haider Ali, Iftikhar Ahmad, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, and Shoaib Malik.
Wicketkeepers (2) – Mohammad Rizwan and Sarfaraz Ahmed.
Fast bowlers (10) – Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Imran Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sohail Khan, Usman Shinwari and Wahab Riaz.
Spinners (4) – Imad Wasim, Kashif Bhatti, Shadab Khan, and Yasir Shah.
Best Playing XI – Test
- Abid Ali
- Shan Masood
- Azhar Ali (C)
- Babar Azam
- Asad Shafiq
- Fawad Alam
- Sarfaraz Ahmed (WK)
- Yasir Shah
- Mohammad Abbas
- Shaheen Shah Afridi
- Naseem Shah
Openers – It would be unwise to change the winning combination, especially at the top of the order with Abid Ali and Shan Masood performing quite well against Bangladesh in the last Test series. Shan smashed a century in his last Test match while Abid averages 107.00 in 4 innings which include 2 centuries.
Imam-ul-Haq, on the other hand, averages 25.52 in 21 innings with no centuries to his name yet. Fakhar Zaman is mainly in the squad for his limited-overs batting skills.
Middle Order – Next up are the captain and vice-captain, Azhar Ali and Babar Azam, at numbers 3 and 4 respectively followed by Asad Shafiq at 5. In Haris Sohail’s absence, Fawad Alam is likely to finally get a chance at number 6. The 34-year-old will be playing Test cricket after 11 years. His consistent performances and hard work at the domestic level may finally reward him with a much-deserved comeback
Wicket Keeper – It will be a tough call for the team management to choose between Mohammad Rizwan and Sarfaraz Ahmed as a wicket-keeper batsman. Sarfaraz was quite good in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and has improved his fitness drastically. Rizwan was the third-highest run-scorer for Pakistan in Australia last year, scoring 177 runs at 44.25 with a best of 95. It looks like Rizwan will be preferred since he’s with the team in Sarfaraz’s absence. He couldn’t get many chances because he was a second-choice wicket-keeper when Sarfaraz was the captain.
Bowlers – Mohammad Abbas will lead the young bowling line-up with Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi to assist him in the pace department. Yasir Shah will be the only leg-spinner as he has already proved his worth in England. Kashif Bhatti will get a chance only if Yasir fails in the first couple of matches.
Wahab Riaz has also agreed to play Test cricket if the team needs him, however, with bowlers like Abbas, Shaheen, and Naseem performing well, he might well only play the T20Is.
Imran Khan Sr. and Faheem Ashraf will also be itching to get a spot in the playing XI, however, it would mean a batsman will have to make way for either of the two. Sohail Khan is going with the bowlers as a backup option alongside Usman Shinwari.
Best Playing XI – T20I
- Haider Ali
- Babar Azam (C)
- Mohammad Hafeez
- Shoaib Malik
- Khushdil Shah
- Sarfaraz Ahmed (WK)
- Imad Wasim
- Shadab Khan
- Shaheen Afridi
- Naseem Shah
- Wahab Riaz
Openers – It might finally be the time for the dream batting pair of Haider Ali and Babar Azam to open the innings for Pakistan against England. Haider proved that he can be the next big thing and his record in the PSL and at the Under-19 level suggests that he can be the batsman that his country needs alongside skipper Babar Azam.
Middle Order – With PCB opting to go with Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, the duo is likely to be in the team management’s plans for the World T20. While there are questions regarding the tournament’s fate due to COVID-19, the two will make up Pakistan’s experienced middle-order for England T20Is. If needed, Misbah-led team management can go with Iftikhar Ahmed in place of either of the veteran cricketers.
Khushdil Shah impressed with his power game at the PSL in the lower middle order for Multan Sultans. Sarfaraz is likely to be preferred over Rizwan in the shortest format and all-rounders including Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan will also help with the batting.
Bowlers – In addition to the two spin-bowling all-rounders, three pacers including Wahab Riaz, Shaheen Afridi, and Naseem Shah or Haris Rauf will be the first choice bowlers. Previously, Mohammad Hasnain used to be the frontline bowler in T20Is.
Pakistan will play three Tests and as many T20Is in August-September against England.
What are the changes that you would like to see in the playing XIs? Let us know in the comments.