Pakistan are excited as they go in the first T20I against ICC World XI as their captain Sarfraz Ahmed revealed on the eve of the match. They have every reason to be as they will be playing their first ever international fixture on their home soil in more than two years. Ten of their players in the squad have never played an international match in Pakistan.
The ICC had been contemplating bringing in a World XI side, having representation of all the major cricket playing nations for the past two years. With the successful organization of the PSL final in Lahore in March this year, the ICC and the FICA believed that it was time to take cricket back to the cricket deprived nation.
Something beyond cricket!
The tour is being organised to attract Test-playing nations to start touring the country hence passions will run high with the first ball.
Pakistan’s recent run in T20 cricket has been impressive - winning six out of seven contests against West Indies in the United Arab Emirates and Caribbean. They go in the contest with their heads high after an epic Champions Trophy campaign that ended with a victory over their arch-rivals in the final.
Pakistan will have to be slightly vary as a batting unit which collapsed in the practice match in the build up to the series. Shoaib Malik topped the scorecard with a classy 77 off 51 deliveries. The next best was 25 put up by Sarfraz Ahmed.
As a bowling unit, Pakistan have been up to the mark. They have been relying on Imad Wasim to stop the flow of runs in the powerplay overs and it would be interesting to see how Sohail Khan fares with the new ball in the absence of Mohammad Amir from the other end.
There isn’t much to talk about the World XI side as a unit as this is the first time this bunch will be playing together. They have had two practice sessions, one in Dubai and the final one in Lahore.
However, this unit, comprising of the some of the best shorter format cricketers have all the potential to hand Pakistan their first-ever T20 loss in Pakistan.
After his remarkable batting performance in the practice match, Pakistan, based on younger talent, will rely on Shoaib Malik to be the stabilizing factor in the side. Malik averages 28 with the bat in the T20I format and he recently struck a fifty for Tridents in the CPL.
Shadab Khan has been phenomenal since he burst on the scene in the PSL earlier this year. He has been at the forefront of almost every major success that Pakistan has had since his international debut in the Caribbean in April. He played a crucial role in Trinbago Knight Riders’ progression into the final with 12 wickets in eight matches. He returned four for 16 with a maiden in the practice match on Sunday.
Hashim Amla must have dominated Pakistan's team meetings. He has scored two centuries in this year’s IPL and possesses the ability to turn the tables with his conventional style of batsmanship. His IPL experience will come in handy as the conditions at the Qaddafi Stadium would be quite similar to what he had experienced there.
With nine years of first-class cricket in Pakistan, Imran Tahir will know how to make the most of the Lahore wickets. The pitch is expected to be flat and a high-scoring one. However, his subtle variations in pace, flight, and trajectory laced with an incredible googly make him the most daunting leg-spinner in modern day cricket.