Sarfraz Ahmed has a 1-- per cent winning record as a captain in T20I so far © AFP
Sarfraz Ahmed has a 1– per cent winning record as a captain in T20I so far © AFP

It seems like Pakistan‘s T20I side has been reborn as soon as they won the one-off T20I against England at Old Trafford. They seem to have found a perfect mantra to emerge as a winner in every outing against T20I juggernauts. Under newly appointed skipper Sarfraz Ahmed, the Pakistan side has blossomed in the shortest format of the game. First, they outsmarted England in their won backyard followed by beating World Champions West Indies in two consecutive games. Pakistan have not just been able to win the match but outclassing the opponent in every department of the game, be it batting, bowling or tactics for different players. They are on their way up the ICC T20I Rankings if they continue to perform with this form.

However, Pakistan will be looking to stick to the winning combination, let’s take a look at their probable playing XI for today’s clash.

Top Order: Pakistan’s top order performance has improved a lot in the recent T20Is they have played. The pressure on the top order has not been that much since in two of the three matches, Pakistan bowlers managed to restrict the batsmen to a lowly total. Sharjeel Khan scored a half-century against England but has managed to score only 24 runs in the previous two matches. Sharjeel got off to a decent start in the first T20I chasing 116 but could not carry forward the momentum and lost his wicket. In second T20I he got out early creating pressure on the side batting first. Pakistan would be looking for a whitewash in T20I series against the Caribbeans. They need a good start from Sharjeel in the powerplay overs.

Khalid Latif has been promising in the series so far scoring 34 and 40, he also scored an unbeaten half-century to guide Pakistan to a comfortable win against England. Latif has scored 133 runs in previous three matches with a strike rate just over run-a-ball. Babar Azam is another addition to their top order success. Azam too has scored 89 runs in past few games including an half-century. Though, the top order has performed well for Pakistan, they have not been really tested against a challenging target. If West Indies bat first and put on a huge total on the board, only then the character of Pakistan’s top order will be tested.

Middle Order: Pakistan’s middle order has not been put to test recently as the top order has finished the job at instances. Only two batsmen got to show their mettle in the middle and that happened in the second T20I while they were batting first. Veteran batsman Shoaib Malik comes in to bat at No.4 position. In previous clash against the Caribbeans Malik tried to steady the ship after two wickets fell at the score of 58. He got out only in the last over after scoring 37 from 28 balls.

Malik is a dependable and also the most experienced batsman in the side and that is why skipper Ahmed has shown so much faith in him in the middle order. Malik has also played with West Indies’ player in recently concluded Caribbean Premier League, his expertise in the middle is crucial for Pakistan in the final T20I.

Ahmed has promoted himself up the order. The skipper scored unbeaten 46 in the previous match sharing a 69-run partnership with Malik. He can run well between the wickets when the boundaries are not coming and can stabilise the innings and after that go all guns blazing in the final overs. Umar Akmal has made a comeback in the side following his performance for Lahore Warriors in a domestic T20 league. Akmal scored 115 runs in 48 balls against Rawalpindi with the help of 9 sixes and 9 fours. He even went on to score 34 off Yasir Arafat’s over.

Akmal got to play only one ball in the previous match. Skipper Ahmed has focused on how crucial his role batting at No.6. He might be needed in the middle in the 3rd T20I. This will also be a chance for him to prove his worth after getting selected in the Pakistan ODI squad.

Mohammad Nawaz or Imad Wasim will follow Akmal in the middle order at No.7. Nawaz did not perform well in the ODI series against England. On the contrary Wasim was a consistent performer for Pakistan as he took the charge of the innings after the initial fall of wickets, helping them to reach a respectable total.

Lower Order: Again, Wasim or Nawaz will come on No.8 position depending upon the situation of the match. Wasim has been great with the ball taking 8 wickets in previous three matches. He also took a fifer in the first T20I taking 5 for 14 in his quota of four overs, enforcing a batting collapse and pulling off an upset. He bagged the Man of the Match award for his performance. In the bowling department Nawaz too has kept it tight in the middle barely leaking runs, he has 2 wickets in previous two games.

Sohail Tanvir is expected to turn up at No.9 as he is known to hit a few deliveries out of the park. Tanvir’s bowling has been good too. He was quite expensive upon his return to Pakistan’s T20I side against England but showed his mettle against West Indies bagging 5 wickets in the ongoing series. He had a good Caribbean Premier League 2016 season along with Wasim. He knows the Caribbean players’ approach and has tried to capitalise on that. He got the Man of the match for taking 3 for 13 in 2nd T20I.

Wahab Riaz too has came back well after a rough patch, getting hammered for more than 100 runs in a record-breaking ODI match. Riaz bowled a fiery spell at Old Trafford picking up 3 wickets. If needed he can too knock a few around scoring valuable runs down the order. He is followed by Hasan Ali, he is the only player who has been expensive for Pakistan in the ongoing T20 series. Ali has picked up wickets but leaked runs at a run-rate over 10 in this series.

Pakistan’s Likely XI (batting order): Sharjeel Khan, Khalid Latif, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Umar Akmal,  Mohammad Nawaz, Imad Wasim, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Hasan Ali

(Arun Rawala reporter with CricketCountry, is a daydreamer, movie buff, and cricket fanatic. He could not play cricket, so did the next best thing, writing for it. He loves to play the flick shot over square leg, and believes Sachin Tendulkar is God. His Twitter handle is @ArunRawal93)