Following a momentous Test series victory against South Africa – Pakistan’s first against them since 2003 – the hosts now gear up to emulate their dominance in a format they prefer the most. Pakistan’s full-fledged T20I battalion will be taking on what essentially is a second-stringed South African T20I outfit in a three-match series, starting from Thursday. The inexperience and youthfulness in the visitors’ camp offer Pakistan the favorites tag coupled with the fact that they are unbeaten at home for six consecutive T20Is.
Pakistan are bolstered by the return of their skipper and one of the most premier T20 batsmen in world cricket, Babar Azam. He missed out in the T20Is against New Zealand due to a thumb injury but will now take the reins of the side as they look to extend their winning campaign at home. Pakistan would also take a lot of heart from the Napier T20I where they rose from a precarious situation to register an enthralling win.
The hosts will be without the services of Fakhar Zaman and Wahab Riaz, both of whom have been dropped. There is no Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, and Imad Wasim either. The veteran could not make it in time to join the national team in their pre-series isolation period as he was featuring in the Abu Dhabi T10 League. Shadab Khan is still recovering from an injury while Imad Wasim has opted to not be considered for selection in the series due to personal reasons.
With Babar Azam’s return, Mohammad Rizwan is expected to shift down the order. Haider Ali, who had a quiet New Zealand tour after shooting to prominence earlier, will most likely open with the skipper. Hasan Ali made a staggering come back to the national set-up with a series-defining performance in the 2nd Test against South Africa. He is expected to slot right into the playing XI for the 1st T20I. Shaheen Afridi, on the other hand, may be rested given his excessive workload scattered across all formats.
Pakistan’s Probable XI: 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Haider Ali, 3 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 4 Khushdil Shah, 5 Asif Ali, 6 Iftikhar Ahmed/Hussain Talat, 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Hasan Ali, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Usman Qadir
South Africa, contrarily, have a fairly young squad featuring several new faces. In fact, only four players from the Test squad have been slotted into the T20I with major gun players like Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi etcetera heading home. South Africa’s Test squad were initially required to feature in a home Test series against Australia which has now been postponed indefinitely.
The Proteas, however, do possess exceptional young talent and quality international cricketers like Reeza Hendricks, David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Tabraiz Shamsi, and Dwaine Pretorius in their ranks. Janneman Malan is another highly talked about batting prodigy and this series could well be his breakout series as far as shorter format cricket is concerned.
South Africa have a blend of all-rounders available in their ranks ranging from George Linde, JJ Smuts, Dwaine Pretorius, and Andile Phehlukwayo. The likes of Lutho Sipamla and Junior Dala can provide extra zip of the deck. With still opportunities awaiting for uncapped players in this series, Glenton Stuurman and Pite van Biljon may well start for the tourists in the 1st T20I.
South Africa’s Probable XI: 1 Janneman Malan, 2 Reeza Hendricks, 3 Jon-Jon Smuts, 4 David Miller, 5 Heinrich Klaasen (capt &wk), 6 Pite van Biljon, 7 Dwaine Pretorius, 8 George Linde, 9 Lutho Sipamla 10 Tabraiz Shamsi, 11 Glenton Stuurman
Pakistan have never won a T20I series against South Africa, a record they would like to amend this time around. All three T20Is will be hosted by Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium and the pitch is expected to be a belter for batting. South Africa are coming into this series with 4 consecutive losses in their last 4 T20Is and they have lost 7 of their last 8 T20Is.