It’s astonishing how one bad session can disfigure and maim the outlook of a whole cricketing campaign that, in its entirety, did not seem as marred as it actually looked. This is the sort of an impact the last session of Day 4 of the 1st Test has had on Pakistan, thus far. As the Test series comes to a lethargic conclusion and as the two teams look to shift from an exacting Test season to a blockbusting week of T20 Cricket, Pakistan would be itching to bring curtains down on their England with a high.
Following two Test series against West Indies and Pakistan along with a three-match ODI series against Ireland, England return to the shortest facet of the game and will play their first T20I since the tour of South Africa in February. Champions of 50-over Cricket, the Three Lions are deemed as one of the most fearsome white-ball units. In fact, their last T20 series defeat came a couple of years ago and, since then, they have triumphed in five series on the trot.
Similar to the ODI series against the Irish, England will not involve any of their Test stars in a bid to give their gun players the rest they need. The English will, thus, be without the likes of Joe Root, Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler for this series while Ben Stokes remains unavailable due to family reasons. Jason Roy, too, has been deemed unavailable for the entirety of the series after he suffered a side strain.
Despite the absence of so many T20 specialists, England will fancy their chances of knocking over Pakistan. The current squad still oozes a lot of flamboyance and potential. David Willey was the star of the series against Ireland with his exceptional all-round contributions. Added to that, white-ball specialists like Tom Banton, Adil Rashid, Chris Jordan, and the skipper himself, Eoin Morgan, fill up the English ranks and pose a potent threat to the visitors. The ever-exciting Sam Billings also had a wonderful series against Ireland and would be looking to replicate his performances in the shortest format, too.
England’s Possible XI: Tom Banton, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings (wk), Moeen Ali, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, David Willey, Saqib Mahmood
Pakistan, the once world-beaters and czars of T20 Cricket, will be itching to regain the lost days of glory and grandeur as far as T20Is are concerned. They reigned supreme on the ICC T20 Rankings for several months, vanquishing one T20 outfit after another as they went about an incredible unbeaten run that stretched from the isles of the Caribbean to the shores of New Zealand.
The downfall was nigh, however, when the cracks in the team’s combination began to widen. The lowest point came when they suffered a humiliating whitewash at the hands of a second-stringed Sri Lankan side, that too, in their own backyard. This paved way for a large-scale overhaul of the national side as the then captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, was abolished from leadership and axed from the side.
Under the pilotage of Babar Azam, Pakistan began to regroup a new, young-blooded team in the rear-end of 2019. They now face their first major challenge in the turfs of England against an almighty host that prides itself on white-ball Cricket supremacy. Pakistan, too, have some sensational T20 cricketers up their sleeves.
In Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, the Greenshirts have the veterans and old troupers who have ample of T20 experience under their belt. In fact, Malik is just 108 runs away from becoming the first non-West Indian cricketer to reach the 10,000 runs milestone – a remarkable feat that bears witness of the right-hander’s longevity and consistency. Not to forget that their new skipper, Babar, is one hell of a cricketer himself. The latter is only the second player, at present, to average in excess of 50 runs in both ODIs and T20Is. Not only that, but Babar is also ranked No 1 in the ICC T20I Batting Rankings.
In Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim, Pakistan have two exceptional all-round players. One, a menacing turner of the ball and a prodigious willow-wielder. The other, a southpaw who has pulled Pakistan out of black abysses several times with batting heroics and whose dart-like deliveries can churn out the wickets of the best of the batters in world Cricket. Then, there is a whole battalion of fast bowlers; ranging from old-timers in Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir to young, supremely adept rookies in Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Hasnain, and Naseem Shah.
Pakistan’s Possible XI: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Hafeez, Haider Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Shadab Khan, Wahab Riaz/Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Amir.
The pitch on offer at the Emirates Old Trafford is usually a belter with something in it for everyone. T20Is since 2017 suggest that anything above 160+ in the first innings is deemed as an above-par total. England lost the last two T20Is played at this venue to India and Pakistan. Out of 8 T20Is played at Old Trafford, three have not produced a result. The English team has won three of them, while the visiting teams have won two matches. As far as the weather is concerned, light showers are expected to plunder the ground throughout the day and are expected to clear out in the evening – just about the time when the match will kick-start. We may have an odd delay but a proper T20 extravaganza is certainly on the cards.