Pakistan face England in high-stakes T20I series opener

The Pakistan men's cricket team will take on England in the first match of a four-game T20I series at Headingley today (Wednesday). This series serves as a crucial warm-up for both teams ahead of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 in the USA and West Indies. 

The remaining matches are scheduled to be held in Birmingham (25 May), Cardiff (28 May), and The Oval in London (30 May). The last T20I encounter between Pakistan and England was the final of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022, where England triumphed by five wickets, with Sam Curran earning the Player of the Final award for his impressive figures of three for 12. 

A full-strength Pakistan squad is expected to take the field today, fresh off a 2-1 series victory against Ireland in Dublin. Key players Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi were pivotal in securing the victories for their team as each earned Player of the Match accolades. 

Historically, England has dominated the T20I rivalry with 19 wins to Pakistan’s nine, with one match ending in a no-result. England also won the previous bilateral series against Pakistan, clinching the seven T20Is played in Lahore and Karachi 4-3. Gary Kirsten, Pakistan’s new men’s white-ball head coach, joined the team on 19 May for his first assignment of a two-year tenure. His presence has been a boost for the team as they prepare for the upcoming series and the World Cup.  

Pakistan captain Babar Azam, who holds the record for the most T20I wins as captain with 46, expressed confidence ahead of the series. "I am confident that Pakistan will carry the winning momentum from the Ireland series into the England T20Is," Babar said. "Our 2-1 victory in Dublin showcased the brilliance of our batters and bowlers, while also providing us with learnings as we aim to work on our areas of improvement. 

"We’ve had productive training sessions at Headingley, and with head coach Gary Kirsten linking up with the squad, we are focused on fine-tuning our strategies and combinations for the four T20Is against England and the T20 World Cup." 

About the team’s opening pair for England series and the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024, Babar said that Saim Ayub and Mohammad Rizwan would continue to open the innings for Pakistan while the skipper would bat one down. “Look, as you might have noticed we did not make many experiments in the Ireland series. We fielded the same lineup we foresee [to utilise] in the World Cup.  

“We are planning to go with which combination, and we have almost decided what should be our batting and bowling lineup. “You’ll see our planning in this series but yes, we can make one or so changes according to the conditions or what is required. But mostly I’ll be batting at one down,” he added. 

About Haris Rauf’s fitness, the skipper said: “We’ve received clearance for Haris Rauf. He’s available for this series. So, by the will of Almighty Allah, he will surely be seen in action in the series.” He further acknowledged England as one of the best teams, saying, “We are very excited before the World Cup, we have a good series, and it will help a lot.” 

SQUADS

PAKISTAN: Babar Azam (captain), Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Rizwan, Muhammad Irfan Khan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Usman Khan. 

ENGLAND: Jos Buttler (captain), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Harry Brook, Sam Curran, Ben Duckett, Tom Hartley, Will Jacks, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Adil Rashid, Phil Salt, Reece Topley and Mark Wood. 

SERIES SCHEDULE 
22 May    1st T20I    Leeds 
25 May    2nd T20I    Birmingham 
28 May    3rd T20I    Cardiff 
30 May    4th T20I    The Oval

Azhar Khan is an accomplished senior sports journalist with extensive experience in the field. He can be reached at azharmasood786@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter at @azharmasood786

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