KARACHI: Insisting England will have a minor edge over Pakistan if the pitch for the final contains extra bounce, former Pakistan captain Rashid Latif on Saturday said plan ‘B’ would be a crucial factor for Babar Azam and his men if they are to lift the coveted ICC T20 World Cup trophy in Melbourne on Sunday.

“If their plan ‘A’ falters, Pakistan must quickly introduce their plan ‘B’ to control England batters early. In case Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah somehow fail to take wickets early in power play, [spinners] Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz maybe needed. How this plan ‘B’ works for Pakistan will be a vital factor,” Rashid said when contacted by Dawn to give his views on today’s grand finale at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

“India [in the semi-final at Adelaide] had no plan ‘B’. Therefore, openers Alex Hales and [captain] Jos Buttler after taking a flying start continued with it unchecked, which made the game totally one-sided. Pakistan should be mindful of this.

“Shadab, pacers Haris Rauf and Mohammad Wasim have done well so far in this World Cup. Their role in the middle overs will be equally important.”

On which team has more chances of victory in the final, Rashid responded technically.

“Both the teams look quite strong and so the game can be close and interesting. However, there is a drop-in pitch at the MCG which can give bowlers extra bounce as it did in the Pakistan-India group match. This added bounce can give England a slight edge over Pakistan, as our batting generally struggles on tracks with extra lift,” the 54-year-old underlined.

Bat first or bowl? Rashid said it would depend upon a specific team’s strength.

“I think Pakistan, on winning the toss, should bat first as we with our strong bowling can defend [even] a decent total,” he said. “On the other hand, England I believe while relying on their batting powerhouse, which can help them post a huge total, should bowl first,” he said.

Responding to a question on whether Babar should open in the final or promote some other player, Rashid was categorical and backed the skipper to open alongside Mohammad Rizwan who also regained form in the semi-final.

“Babar should open at the MCG, no question about it,” he said firmly. “He batted impressively in the semi-final against New Zealand and there is no need to change the opening pair.

“Though both [Indian captain] Rohit Sharma and Babar are world-class openers but they batted differently in the semi-finals. While Babar played purely as a batsman without taking any captaincy pressure, Rohit came out to bat as captain putting [unnecessary] pressure on himself which slowed down India’s scoring rate in the first ten overs,” Rashid pointed out.

The former wicket-keeper noted England’s middle order batting had not been fully tested in this World Cup.

“While the England openers have played well, their middle order, including Ben Stokes, Harry Brook, Phil Salt, Liam Livingstone and Moeen Ali have not been able to score heavily; a few of them did not even get enough chance. This can be a plus factor for Pakistan.

“However, Stokes, who is a big-match performer, can rise to the occasion today. He did it in style in the 2019 [50-over] World Cup final against New Zealand. Pakistan should keep this in view,” Rashid concluded.

Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2022

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