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Thursday, February 2, 2023

England vs Pakistan First T20I Match Preview

Few could have imagined that the next visit from England would be delayed for more than two decades

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Russell Chattaraj
Russell Chattaraj
Mechanical engineering graduate, writes about science, technology and sports, teaching physics and mathematics, also played cricket professionally and passionate about bodybuilding.

UNITED KINGDOM/PAKISTAN: On a frigid, foggy December night in 2001, England’s cricket team exited the field at Rawalpindi following a consolation victory in the fifth and final ODI.

It was the final game of a tour that saw little success for England in either the red- or white-ball formats, particularly for its defending Ashes champions from 2005, who had suffered a 2-0 defeat earlier in the month to mark the start of Michael Vaughan’s rule.

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However, even with the increased security that the journey had required in the wake of 9/11, few could have predicted that England’s subsequent visit would be postponed for the better part of two decades.

In the intervening years, the teams have played three tours on neutral UAE soil, the most recent of which was in 2015. However, for many years, especially following the events outside the Gaddafi Stadium in March 2009, a return to actual cricket on Pakistani soil seemed unthinkable.

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However, the foundation has slowly but surely been laid, first by the Pakistan Super League, which was established in exile in the UAE in 2016 before hosting its knockout rounds and final on home soil the following year.

This marked the beginning of an unstoppable process of myth-busting, not least for the numerous England white-ball players in this current squad who have long since been persuaded of the nation’s warmth and hospitality.

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Even before the first ball of this series was bowled, it was evident how friendly the players from England and Pakistan were to one another.

Alex Hales and Shan Masood could be seen joking around about the recent English summer in a video released by the PCB on Monday. Mohammad Haris, a likely debutant behind the stumps, coyly introduced himself to Jos Buttler as the two squads mixed freely.

Previous tours may have been defined by suspicion at best and outright enmity at worst due to the history of mistrust between the two teams over the yearsโ€”from disagreements about umpiring and ball tampering in the 1980s and 1990s to the spot-fixing crisis of 2010 and beyond.

But now, not only because of the tremendous influx of Pakistanis into county cricket and the interaction across dressing roomsโ€”not only between English players in the PSLโ€”but also because England-Pakistan matches have become so frequent, things have altered.

Pakistan remains one of the top teams in the format, even though the hosts are still reeling from their recent Asia Cup final loss to Sri Lanka. They have a powerful and versatile attack, in which Naseem Shah is quickly becoming a star in his own right, even without the injured Shaheen Shah Afridi, whose recovery from a knee injury has been a continuing drama.

For better or worse, this tour may be seen as the official beginning of the Jos Buttler-Matthew Mott period in England.

Given the abrupt handover this summer, when Eoin Morgan decided enough was enough midway through their tour of the Netherlands, this extended trip is a first chance for the new management to create some distance between the two regimes – no easy feat given how fondly the Morgan era will be remembered. However, Buttler is unlikely to be involved on the field for a while yet as he continues to manage the calf injury that ended his Hundred campaign.

Players to Watch out

Haris Sohail; Photo Credit: Twitter

Haris Sohail: He could have been excused for believing he’d lost his opportunity with a top score of 6 in four prior one-day internationals against the West Indies and the Netherlands this year, especially with the World Cup rapidly approaching.

Nevertheless, the selectors still believe in the qualities that made him one of the PSL 2022’s breakout stars, and with Mohammad Rizwan out, he is expected to receive his chance near the top of the order. At the age of 20, he scored 166 runs for Peshawar Zalmi in five innings, averaging 33.20 and nearly 187 on the strike rate, including a match-winning 49 off 27 balls in his debut against Karachi Kings.

Alex Hales; Photo Credit: Twitter

Alex Hales: A remarkable series of events, starting Morgan’s retirement and concluding with Jonny Bairstow’s accident on the golf course in Harrogate may have been required, but the result is that Hales is back at the age of 33 for a chance he thought would never come again.

From a purely sporting standpoint, this opportunity is entirely merit-based. Hales has developed into one of the top T20 batters in the world since being exiled on the eve of the 2019 World Cup. He is a regular at franchise tournaments around the globe, including the PSL and the BBL, two events that make his recall for this World Cup winter all the more appropriate.

Pakistanย probable: 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Shan Masood, 3 Mohammad Haris (wk), 4 Iftikhar Ahmed, 5 Khushdil Shah, 6 Shadab Khan, 7 Asif Ali, 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Naseem Shah, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Mohammad Hasnain

England probable: 1 Alex Hales, 2 Phil Salt (wk), 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Harry Brook, 5 Moeen Ali (capt), 6 Will Jacks, 7 Sam Curran, 8 David Willey, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Olly Stone, 11 Richard Gleeson.

Also Read: Sri Lanka Clinches the Asia Cup Trophy after Beginning Their Campaign with a Loss

Author

  • Russell Chattaraj

    Mechanical engineering graduate, writes about science, technology and sports, teaching physics and mathematics, also played cricket professionally and passionate about bodybuilding.

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