LAHORE             -            Babar Azam-led Pakistan cricket team takes on visiting Bangladesh today (Friday) in the opening match of the T20 International series here at the historical Gaddafi Stadium at 2:00 pm.

This will be for the first time that Bangladesh will be playing Pakistan in a bilateral T20I series. Both teams had earlier met mostly in the ICC tournaments or played a one-off T20 international between them. They have also met each other in only one T20I in Pakistan, which the hosts won by 102 runs with Misbah-ul-Haq hitting 87 runs off 53 balls. Bangladesh were bundled out for 101 with Mansoor Amjad taking a three-wicket haul. Misbah is now serving Pakistan team as chief selector and head coach.

Pakistan team is still top-ranked ICC T20I team despite losing eight out of their nine T20I matches last year, which includes a humiliating clean-sweep at home against a second-string Sri Lanka side and drawing a blank in Australia. But the hosts are still hopeful of reviving their T20I fortunes while playing against Bangladesh as they had very good track record against the visitors. Pakistan lead Bangladesh 8-2 in T20I head-to-head records having beaten them 8 times in 10 meetings, which includes a massive 102-run victory in the only Pak-Bangladesh T20I match in Pakistan.

Although it is going to be the first home series for captain Babar Azam, who earlier made a debut as T20 captain against Australia in Australia and now he is ready to lead the home side at home ground in front of home crowd, where he is eager to stamp his authority. Babar has a good combination of young and experienced as the side includes four uncapped players – Ahsan Ali, Amad Butt, Usman Qadir and Haris Rauf while veterans Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, who were dropped for the Australia series, made a comeback and keen to not give out their best during the Bangladesh series.

The visitors, on the other hand, showed some spark against a young Indian side in their most recent assignment in November 2019 as they registered their first ever victory against the opposition, but lost the series after successive defeats. They will be happy to welcome their leading-run scorer Tamim Iqbal across formats, who is back into the fold after a break and adds great value to the team with his experience.

Bangladesh also have services of youngsters like Mohammad Naim – who was the leading run-scorer in that India series with 143 runs from three knocks – and Afif Hossain, who have exhibited tremendous potential in their short careers so far, and Bangladesh will know that if these youngsters succeed in performing well, there will be a strong chance for the visitors to register impressive victories. Weather in Lahore is cool and the temperature is expected to drop to single digits later in the evening. The pitch is expected to be a well-balanced one with support for all disciplines.

Meanwhile, with Bangladesh tour to Pakistan for three-match T20I series, cricket festivity returns to Lahore, which is all set to stage the T20 matches between both the neighbouring countries at the historic Gaddafi Stadium from January 24 to 27.

The Gaddafi Stadium, known as home of cricket, gives a bridal look to hold three thrilling and exciting encounters of the shortest version of the game. All the enclosures, named after former greats of cricket, have been washed and plastic chairs got their original color back after dusting. The PCB officials are expecting jam-packed venue during the three matches.

“Another historic moment will be added in Pakistan cricket history with this T20 series at the Gaddafi Stadium, which is a famous cricket arena throughout the world for having staged World Cup and other elite cricket events in the past,” said a PCB official.

A strict security plan has been put in order at the Nishtar Park Sports Complex and all the restaurants and the business houses located in its vicinity will remain closed during the series. “Similar measures were also taken in the recent years during the previous editions of Pakistan Super League and visits of the foreign teams,” he added.



Captain: Babar Azam

Team (likely): Ahsan Ali, Amad Butt, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Khushdil Shah, M Hafeez, M Hasnain, M Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shoaib Malik and Usman Qadir


Captain: Mahmudullah

Team (likely): Tamim Iqbal Khan, Soumya Sarkar, Naim Sheikh, Najmul Hossain, Litton Das, MD Mithun, Afif Hossain, Mahadi Hasan, Aminul Islam Biplob, Mustafizur Rahman, Shafiul Islam, Al-Amin Hossain, Rubel Hossain, Hasan Mahmud