LAHORE - The much-anticipated moment is finally upon us, as Pakistan will host England for the first time in 17 years when the two sides meet for the first of the seven historic T20 Internationals today (Tuesday) at National Stadium Karachi. 

Since the arrival of Jos Buttler’s side in Karachi on Thursday, the discourse has revolved around the historic nature of England’s visit, but when the first ball is bowled and two of the most exciting T20I sides get in action, cricket will take the front seat. 

England have had an upper hand in the format in head-to-head contests, winning 14 of the 21 matches, and losing on only six occasions. They have had four days of practice at the National Stadium, and after familiarising themselves with the conditions, they will look to stretch their dominance in this series. 

“Everyone is raring to go,” England captain Jos Buttler told PCB Digital on the eve of the first T20I. “Preparations have been good and the guys are excited to be practising at this venue. Everyone is looking ahead at the first game.” 

This England squad is well familiar with the conditions because of their multiple visits to the country, especially to Karachi and Lahore, for Pakistan Super League editions since 2017. Exactly half of the 20-player squad has been in Pakistan before and have let the other half know what will be on offer at National Stadium, Karachi and Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore. 

Moeen Ali will take the captaincy as Buttler – who is nursing a calf injury, sustained in the recent The Hundred – is expected to be available for the last few matches. 

The today’s match will be Pakistan’s only second of the format in the country this year. They played Australia in a solitary T20I during their historic visit to Lahore in April. Pakistan, however, enter this series at the back of a decent ACC Men’s T20 Asia Cup in which they ended up as runners-up after losing to Sri Lanka in the final. 

They sealed thrillers against India and Afghanistan and have won nine out of their last 13 matches – something that underscores Babar Azam men’s consistency and ability to pull off remarkable wins under pressure. 

Pakistan have the services of two of the most successful batters at the top of the order in Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam. The two have been outstanding since the start of 2021 with Rizwan scoring 1,630 runs – the most in the period – at 67.91 per dismissal and Babar behind him with 1,073 at 33.53. They are two of the only three batters to score more than a thousand runs in the format in the last 21 months (the third being West Indies captain Nicholas Pooran). 

“Playing at home provides a great opportunity for the youngsters to express themselves and it boosts morale when your fans back you,” Babar said to PCB Digital. “I am thrilled and excited for this series. It is an important one for us as it leads us into the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup. We are all very excited and eager to get going.” 

The Pakistan Cricket Board has pledged all the gate receipts from the first T20I to Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund to help the victims of the devastating floods that have submerged one-third of the country. 

ENGLAND SQUAD:  Jos Buttler (capt), Moeen Ali (vc), Adil Rashid, Alex Hales, Ben Duckett, Chris Woakes, David Willey, Dawid Malan, Harry Brook, Jordan Cox, Liam Dawson, Luke Wood, Mark Wood, Olly Stone, Phil Salt, Reece Topley, Richard Gleeson, Sam Curran, Tom Helm and Will Jacks. 

PAKISTAN SQUAD: Babar Azam (capt), Shadab Khan (vc), Aamir Jamal, Abrar Ahmed, Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Naseem Shah, Shahnawaz Dahani, Shan Masood and Usman Qadir.