English Top Order In the Spotlight as Series Moves to Lahore
The Karachi leg of the T20I series ended with a cracker as Pakistan stole the game from England. The ODI World Champions will take some pride in their fight back as Dawson almost pulled off one of the most dramatic run chases in T20I cricket.
But, England’s top order has become their weak zone in this series. Their middle order has rescued them each time, but none of their top 3 has given a notable performance (apart from a half-century by Hales in the 1st game) in the first 4 T20Is
In those positions, they have tried 4 different batters (Hales, Salt, Malan, and Jacks). However, they have all struggled to make an impact on the game.
With World Cup only 18 days away, England will desperately want their top order to fire in the next game. Also, these 4 blokes need to show some form in order to secure a place in England’s starting XI for the T20 World Cup.
On the other hand, Pakistan will feel confident after their bowlers have delivered another win to cover their batting issues. Anyhow, they can’t afford to turn a blind eye to the problems they repeatedly face in middle overs.
Apart from Babar and Rizwan, they don’t have a settled batsman at any position. Considering the repeated failures of Khushdil Shah, they may be interested in allowing Shadab to bat at #5.
That makes sense, too, as he is technically the soundest middle-order batsman in the Pakistan team, apart from Shan Masood. So, it could be Shadab’s turn to try to solve Pakistan’s biggest issue right now in T20I cricket.
Weather and Playing Conditions
The weather will be clear and warm during the match hours. The temperature is expected to stay around 30° Celsius, and humidity will be high (close to 70%), just like it was in Karachi.
The average score batting first in Lahore in T20Is is 161. Generally, a score of 170+ in Lahore is considered tough to chase.
Players to Keep an Eye On
Alex Hales has been one of the most destructive T20 batters in league cricket around the world. He has also been a top performer in PSL for the last 3 years.
However, till now, this series hasn’t been as good as he would have expected. Being a prime contender to open the innings with Butler in the T20 World Cup, he needs a couple of solid knocks to finish the series.
Babar Azam is currently recognized as the best all-format batsman in the world. He scored a thumping ton in the 2nd T20I. However, his struggle continued in the next 2 games. Pakistani fans would want him to show some consistency in the 3 T20Is to be played in Lahore.
Key Match Ups
Nawaz vs. Duckett
Nawaz has got Ben Duckett out twice in the last 3 games (he was not out on 1 occasion). Duckett loves to dominate spin with his wide range of sweep shots. But Nawaz is a clever customer and will try to get rid of him early if these two face each other in the 5th T20I.
Wood vs. Babar
Mark Wood is probably the fastest bowler in the world right now. He bowled some lightning-quick stuff in the 3rd T20I and got Babar caught at 3rd man boundary.
But, Babar loves to play extra pace, and he will look to smash a few boundaries of Wood in the powerplay. So, it will be a fascinating battle to watch – but only if Wood plays the next game.
It’s probably the time for Shadab to return to the playing XI. If it happens, Usman Qadir will be back on the bench.
Moreover, Haider Ali was not fit for the last game. So, if he gets fit, Khushdil Shah should make way for him.
Probable XI: Babar Azam (c), M. Rizwan (wk), Shan Masood, Haider Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Asif Ali, M. Nawaz, M. Waseem, M. Hasnain/Shahnawaz Dahani
Jos Butler is unlikely to feature in the last 3 games as well. England can consider bringing back David Malan and Mark Wood for Will Jacks and David Willey.
Probable XI: Alex Hales, Phil Salt (wk), David Malan/Will Jacks, Ben Duckett, Harry Brook, Moeen Ali, Liam Dawson, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood, Olly Stone, Reece Topley
What They Said?
“With regard to Jos (Buttler), he’s still a while off, he’s not a player we want to take a risk on at this stage, so close to the World Cup, and it was a reasonably significant injury that he had. But we’ll just try and see how we go, and maybe in the last game or two, we might give him a chance.”
England coach Mathew Mott said Butler will only play if there is no risk of his injury getting worse.
“As a team, we believe in never giving up. Every player in our side gives his 100%, and I bowled with the same attitude. Thankfully, it helped us to win the game.”
Pakistani speedster credits Pakistan’s never give up attitude for his match-winning spell.