If there was any air of complacency in the Pakistan camp ahead of the two T20 Internationals against Scotland in Edinburgh, it must have been blown away after the home side’s shock performance against England in the one-off ODI on Sunday. Scotland posted 371, the highest total by an Associate team in ODIs, to beat the world number one team by six runs and will play the number one T20 side on Wednesday and Thursday with loads of confidence behind them.
Cricket is not a popular sport among Scottish, but it was a big talking for the locals following their team’s historic win against England. The bigger picture on the front page of the newspapers in Scotland yesterday was not of Kim Jong Un or Donald Trump, it was Safyaan Sharif celebrating the last England wicket with a yorker to Mark Wood that sent Scotland into an animated celebration at the Grange Cricket Club.
It is a shame that a team as exciting as Scotland will not be part of the Cricket World Cup in the United Kingdom next year. If not for rain or unavailability of DRS in the World Cup Qualifiers earlier this year, Scotland could have made it to the World Cup ahead of Windies. With Afghanistan and Ireland now full-members, Scotland at the moment is the strongest Associate team. There have already been talks about them being the next Test team.
The focus at the moment is on T20s though.
The series against Pakistan is an opportunity for the home side to gain an automatic qualification in the World Twenty 2020 in Australia. Top ten teams in the ICC Rankings as of 31 December 2018, will directly qualify for the tournament.
Scotland, currently at number 11, will move ahead of the number-ten Bangladesh if they win one of the two matches against Pakistan. The European T20 Tri-series which is starting today will provide them with another chance to escape from the World T20 Qualifiers.
There is plenty to gain for Pakistan as well. Even though they have not lost a T20 series in two years, a couple of upsets at the hands of Scotland cannot be ruled out. If that unlikely scenario materialises, Pakistan will lose its number one spot in the rankings.
"We were not taking them lightly even before the England match. T20 is not an easy format," said Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed. "We just saw Afghanistan beat Bangladesh 3-0. You have to play better on the day in this format. It doesn't matter whether you are a number one or number eight side."
"After watching them play against England, one can say that yesterday was Scotland's day. The way they batted, bowled, and fielded, they deserve to be congratulated."
Pakistan are in the middle of an extraordinary run in the shortest form of the game. Since the debacle in the World T20 2016 in India where they won only one match (against Bangladesh) and Sarfraz Ahmed taking the reins from Shahid Afridi, Pakistan have not lost a single series and won 17 out of 20 games. Their win percentage 85.00 in that period is the highest in the world.
However, for this series, they will be without the services of the number one T20 batsman Babar Azam and a key figure in stabilising their top-order. Babar was left out of the squad because of the arm injury sustained during Lord’s Test last month. In his absence, Ahmed Shehzad is likely to stage a comeback after going three T20s against Windies without playing in Karachi.
Pakistan’s strength though lies with their bowling. Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf will form the pace-attack whereas Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz will be the spinners. If the ODI on Sunday which witnessed 736 runs in 98.5 overs is anything to go, Pakistan bowlers will have a tough task in the next couple of days. They need to make sure they travel back home for Eid without long faces.