PAKISTAN captain Babar Azam eyes a catch during a training session at Trent Bridge on Thursday.—AP
PAKISTAN captain Babar Azam eyes a catch during a training session at Trent Bridge on Thursday.—AP

NOTTINGHAM: After being whitewashed in the One-day International series by a third-string England side, Pakistan will be looking to make a fresh start when they take on the hosts in the first Twenty20 International at Trent Bridge on Friday.

Having won just five of 17 completed T20 Internationals against England, Babar Azam’s side will pin their hopes on experienced Mohammad Hafeez to make amends for the ODI series debacle and with Babar — currently ranked second-best batter in the T20 International rankings behind England’s Dawid Malan — himself rediscovering his form with a brilliant 158 in the final ODI at Edgbaston, Pakistan are desperate to post decent score on the board.

In a pre-series virtual media conference on Thursday, vice-captain Shadab Khan expressed Pakistan’s desire of making a strong comeback after losing ODI 3-0.

“T20 is a different format and we have a different team. Our senior players like Hafeez and Imad Wasim have returned to the side,” Shadab said. “Mostly players in the team have recently featured in the HBL PSL. So we have played a good amount of T20 cricket and hopefully you will see a good series.”

Asked about his individual performance, Shadab said: “I am making a comeback after injury and my recent performance has been not good. I feel I am in good rhythm lately and looking forward to contributing for the team in batting and bowling departments.”

England captain Eoin Morgan, meanwhile, indicated his side are likely to rotate their side during the three-match series with players given a last chance to impress before the T20 World Cup.

A revamped England side dominated the ODI series after the initial squad was forced into self-isolation due to a coronavirus outbreak and while the majority of the first-choice members are back for the T20s, while stars of the 50-over triumph — Saqib Mahmood, Lewis Gregory and Matt Parkinson — are also included in the squad.

With the T20 World Cup now just three months away, this series represents one of the last opportunities for Morgan to assess his options ahead of the tournament, and it’s one he intends to take.

When asked if there would be more rotation among England’s squad of 16 for the three-match series, Morgan said: “There are very few opportunities [left], and not knowing what is ahead of ourselves, we need to look a little bit more at our strength in depth.

“You’ll see opportunities for the guys in the squad over the course of the next three games — going through various different options for possible injury replacements for certain players. That’s the priority throughout the series, treating it as our last chance to look at guys in various different positions.”

One area that England are keen to improve is their death bowling which could provide Mahmood, in particular, with a chance to shine after his player of the series performance in the ODIs.

“I think everybody is going to get an opportunity to bowl at the death,” Morgan said. “Everybody will have a chance. Saqib is coming off a pretty big high of bowling well in the one-day series, but obviously T20 is a different game.

“Certainly in the first couple of games they probably weren’t exposed in the death bowling side of things because they bowled so well [at the start], so it’s an opportunity in these three games to look at guys under pressure.”

While Morgan insists he was not surprised by what he saw from any of the players drafted in at late notice for the ODIs, when asked about Mahmood and Gregory, he noted the improvement in their games in the time since they last featured for England and also highlighted the contribution of James Vince after his century in the third ODI.

“They’ve done themselves the world of good, to be honest,” he added. “The one thing you look at when guys come in and out of a side, particularly when they don’t have the opportunity to play a lot, is a marked improvement from the time they got the opportunity to the next time an opportunity might arise.”

While England are the top-ranked side in the ICC T20 team rankings with 278 points, Pakistan are currently in fourth spot with 261 points.

The second T20 takes place at Headingley on Sunday before the teams head to Old Trafford for the final fixture on Tuesday.

Teams (from):

ENGLAND: Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Tom Banton, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Lewis Gregory, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Saqib Mahmood, Dawid Malan, Matt Parkinson, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, David Willey.

PAKISTAN: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Sohaib Maqsood, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Azam Khan, Sharjeel Khan, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Hasnain, Usman Qadir, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Arshad Iqbal, Mohammad Wasim.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2021

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