Pakistan has named a dynamic XI for the first of the three T20Is against Afghanistan at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Friday.
Opener Saim Ayub, middle-order batter Tayyab Tahir, and right-arm quicks Zaman Khan and Ihsanullah will make Pakistan debuts. Top-order batter Abdullah Shafique, all-rounders Faheem Ashraf and Imad Wasim, and Azam Khan mark their returns to the Pakistan side.
These eight players were named in the 15-member squad for this T20I series after a string of impressive performances in the domestic circuit and the recently-concluded Pakistan Super League (PSL) 8. The series comes with an opportunity for these players to carry their form in international cricket.
Karachi-born 20-year-old Saim will open with Mohammad Haris, who has played five T20Is for Pakistan and announced his arrival in the last ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia with his blazing strokeplay and bold intent and has batted with him in Peshawar Zalmi during the PSL 8. Saim comes into the side after a highly impressive run for Sindh and Peshawar Zalmi.
The left-hander played an integral role in crowning Sindh the National T20 champions as he made 416 runs in 12 matches at a strike rate of 155.22. He smashed 341 runs – that included five half-centuries, the joint-most in the season with Babar Azam – at a strike rate of 165.53 for Peshawar Zalmi in this PSL at the top of the order.
Abdullah and Tayyab make numbers three and four respectively. Abdullah, who has played three T20Is with his last being in December 2020 in New Zealand, comes into the side after making 268 runs at 144.08 for champions Lahore Qalandars. He scored two half-centuries, the last being in the final against Multan Sultans.
Tayyab has been in good touch over the last year. He marked his PSL 8 debut with a whirlwind 65 and made 137 runs at 144.21 and was the best batter of the Pakistan Cup, which concluded in January. He also bagged player of the final award for his match-winning 71 for Central Punjab. He made 708 runs in the first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy at an average of 59 and recorded four centuries and one half-century.
The middle order comprises of captain Shadab Khan, Azam Khan, Faheem Ashraf, and Imad Wasim.
Azam scored 282 runs at a staggering 161.14 for Islamabad United this PSL. His highest score of 97 came against Quetta Gladiators at the National Stadium Karachi. This will be the 24-year-old’s fourth T20I.
Faheem, Azam’s PSL teammate, provided balance to the side with his contributions with bat and ball. He made 215 runs at 149.30 and took eight wickets at an economy of 9.50 – in a league that has had the best run rate (9.20) in the last year for any major T20 tournament around the world.
Imad’s nine wickets for Karachi Kings came at an average of 28.22 and an economy of 7.93, but it was his sensational batting that turned heads as the left-hander scored 404 runs at a phenomenal average of 134.66 and a staggering strike rate of 170.46. The 34-year-old has an experience of 58 T20Is in which he has 55 wickets at an average of 23.49. His economy is 6.33.
Naseem Shah will spearhead the pace attack that includes newcomers Zaman and Ihsanullah.
Zaman was outstanding with the new and old ball in the Powerplay and death overs and he is expected to execute the same role in Pakistan colors on Friday. He moves the ball in the air at the start of the innings and keeps the batters guessing in death with his wily variations.
He defended 13 off the last over to help Lahore Qalandars to their second straight PSL title and took 15 wickets at 23.60 runs per dismissal and an economy of 8.53 in the recent season.
In Ihsanullah, Pakistan has a reliable pace bowler to carry them through the middle overs. The right-arm pacer’s thunderbolts kept batters on backfoot throughout the PSL 8 as he peppered every opposition with lethal bouncers. Ihsanullah was the first bowler in the tournament to pick a five-wicket haul and he went on to finish the tournament as the best player and best bowler for taking 22 wickets (the second most) at only 15.77 runs apiece and he leaked only 7.59 runs in the 45.4 overs he bowled, the most for a bowler with top-five wickets.
Here is Pakistan’s XI for the 1st T20I:
|Saim Ayub||Peshawar Zalmi|
|Mohammad Haris||Peshawar Zalmi|
|Abdullah Shafique||Lahore Qalandars|
|Tayyab Tahir||Karachi Kings|
|Azam Khan (wk)||Islamabad United|
|Shadab Khan (c)||Islamabad United|
|Imad Wasim||Karachi Kings|
|Faheem Ashraf||Islamabad United|
|Naseem Shah||Quetta Gladiators|
|Zaman Khan||Lahore Qalandars|