Having conceded the Test series 0-1 to England, Pakistan now have an opportunity to redeem themselves in the three-match Twenty20 series, starting Friday, August 28.
While Pakistan will be thirsting for revenge after a combination of meek cricket and indifferent weather cost the Men in Green the Test series, England are no pushovers in limited overs cricket, especially the shortest format.
The arrival of new faces in the dressing room also bodes well for Pakistan as they are still licking the wounds from the Test series and the limited overs specialists will help them in their quest to take home some moments to savour from the England tour.
Unlike the Test series where England had a distinctly superior bowling line-up to that of Pakistan’s, the two teams are evenly matched going into the Twenty 20 series.
Pakistan named a 17-member squad, which includes reliable and proven willow wielders in captain Babar Azam, veteran Mohammad Hafeez, Fakhar Zaman and Shoaib Malik. It also has a bunch of explosive hitters in Iftikhar Ahmed, Haider Ali, Imad Wasim and Khushdil Shah.
Their bowling has a potent mix of pace and variety in young quicks Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain, Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi and the experienced Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Aamir.
Considered a specialist in the shortest format, Rauf turned heads with his raw pace and variations in the last season of the Australian Big Bash League (BBL), picking up 16 wickets, including a hat-trick, for Melbourne Stars.
Groomed by former Pakistan pace ace and World Cup winner Aaqib Javed, who coaches domestic Twenty20 side Lahore Qalandars, Rauf wowed one and all with his fiery bowling and rapier-like toe-crushers. He clocked consistently over 140 kmph and also showed good variety with subtle changes of pace.
His sensational run in the BBL, coupled with his domestic performances, got him a call-up to the national team for the T20 series against Bangladesh last year.
While Aamir announced his retirement from Test cricket in his late twenties to focus on the shortest format, Wahab has shown he is still a handful in 20-over cricket.
As was evident in its successful World Cup campaign, England are a potent force in white-ball cricket. They have announced a strong T20 squad for the Pakistan series, to be led by veteran southpaw Eoin Morgan.
Their batting is headlined by a long line of power hitters in Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, Sam Billings, Moeen Ali, the skipper himself and Joe Denly.
They also have the experienced all-round talent of Chirs Jordan and David Willey to count on. However, their late order enforcer and trump card Ben Stokes, who pulled out of the Test series citing ‘a family matter’, won’t be available for the T20Is as well.
Their bowling has enough depth and quality in pacers Jordan, Willey, Lewis Gregory, Tom Curran, Adil Rashid and Mooen, among others.
Explaining why the likes of Test captain Joe Root, explosive keeper-batsman Jos Buttler and tearaway Jofra Archer weren’t included in the squad, England national selector Ed Smith said, “In this crowded international summer, players who are currently in the Test match bio-secure bubble for the Pakistan Test series are not included in this squad. We want to give multi-format players some opportunity to rest and refresh, while still selecting strong squads for every series.”
Despite playing to empty stands, the teams will go hard at each other and present an exciting brand of cricket for viewers to savor. While England will bring more of their fearless cricket, which has got them a lot of success of late, into play, Pakistan will look to recover from the Test series defeat and dish out their short-format skills to exact a measure of revenge on their rivals.