A look at Pakistan’s form, talking points, key players ahead of T20 WC

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New Delhi [India]: The Pakistan cricket team has a lot to introspect on and think about as they gear up for their ICC T20 World Cup campaign opener against USA on June 6 and the highly-anticipated clash against arch-rivals India in New York on June 9.

The ICC T20 World Cup is taking place from June 1 to 29 in the West Indies and the USA, with the team placed in Group A along with India, USA, Canada and Ireland. Since their loss to England in the final of the ICC T20 WC back in 2022 in Australia, Pakistan has played six bilateral T20I series, winning just one, drawing two and losing three.

Let us look at Pakistan’s form, talking points heading into the tournament and some of their key performers since that painful loss to England at Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

Afghanistan vs Pakistan in UAE (March 2023)
In this series, Pakistan attempted to build a new core ahead of the 2024 T20 WC, under the leadership of Shadab Khan, introducing players like Saim Ayub, Mohammed Haris, Azam Khan, Zaman Khan etc. However, with a 2-1 series loss, the move backfired horribly as Pakistan missed the experience of Babar Azam, Mohammed Rizwan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, who did not play in the series. Afghanistan did a fine job chasing a paltry 93 runs and 131 runs in the first two games. In the final game, Pakistan batting delivered the goods, scoring 182/7 in their 20 overs and Shadab Khan, and Ihsanullah got three wickets to bundle out the Afghans for 116 runs.

New Zealand in Pakistan (April 2023):
This series did not have several names that are in the T20 WC squad, like Devon Conway, Kane Williamson, Glenn Phillips, Tim Southee etc and was led by Tom Latham. The series ended in a 2-2 draw. Kiwi batting fell flat in the first two matches, once bundled out for 94 while chasing 183 runs and then restricted to 154/7 while chasing 193 runs. However, batters made a comeback in the next two games and levelled the series. Mark Chapman’s 57-ball 104* in the final T20I while chasing 194 runs was a big highlight for Kiwis.
Babar Azam’s 101* in the second T20I and Mohammed Rizwan’s 98* in the final T20I were two big batting performances for Pakistan. Haris Rauf (11 wickets), Imad Wasim (8 wickets) and Shaheen (6 wickets) did well for Pakistan as bowlers.

Pakistan in New Zealand (January 2024):
In this series, New Zealand out-batted a largely conservative, less risk-taking Pakistan side to win the series 4-1. The captaincy armband finally returned to Kane Williamson, who played in the series for two games and Satner led the team in the rest of the games. NZ set a huge total of 227 runs in the first game on the back of fifties from Kane Williamson and Daryl Mitchell and a four-fer by Tim Southee helped them win by 46 runs. In the next game, Allen’s 74 in 41 balls helped Kiwis set up 195 for Pakistan, who fell short by 21 runs.

Allen’s six-hitting spree in the third T20I during his 62-ball 137, consisting of five fours and 16 sixes essentially defeated Pakistan on its own, who fell 45 runs short of Kiwis’ 225-run target. After another win in the fourth T20I, Pakistan got a consolation win in the final T20I, skittling out for 92 runs while defending 135.

Babar Azam (213 runs in five matches at a strike rate of 142.00) and Rizwan (184 runs in five matches at a strike rate of 131.42) hurt Pakistan with their more conservative SRs. Fakhar Zaman did show some sparks but struggled for consistency. Other than that, no other batter was in form. Shaheen (9 wickets), Rauf (7 wickets), Abaas Afridi (5 wickets) were among the wickets but could not win in the crucial stages.

New Zealand in Pakistan (April 2024)
Due to the inactivity of some prominent Kiwi talent due to the IPL, Kiwis sent a largely inexperienced line-up for this tour, which ended in a 2-2 draw. The inexperienced Kiwis line-up did a fine job in restricting Pakistan to below 200-run totals. With strike rates of just over 138 and 121 respectively, Babar and Rizwan came under scrutiny for their approach to the shortest format.

Effectiveness of Shaheen with the ball, eight wickets in four games at an average of 10.00 and a strike rate of 8.12 and an economy of 7.38 was a key highlight of the series.

Pakistan tour of Ireland (May 2024)
This was Pakistan’s first series win in T20Is after over an year. It started shaky for Pakistan as the target of 184 runs was chased by Irish men with a ball left, with Andy Balbirnie (77 in 55 balls) leading from the front. However, in the next two games, Pakistan chased down 194 and 179 with around three overs left, batting with more aggression and intent. Skipper Babar (132 runs in three matches at a strike rate of 150.00 and two fifties) and Rizwan (132 runs in three games with two fifties and a strike rate of 148.31), lifted their SRs big time. Shaheen (7 wickets) and Abaas Khan (6 wickets) led the Pakistani attack from the front.

Pakistan tour of England (May 2024)
Another series loss for Pakistan. The first and third T20Is were called off due to rain, but England defended 184 in the second T20I while chased down 158 in just 15.3 overs in the fourth game to win the series. Leading upto the tournament, Pakistan has won nine T20Is, and lost 12.

Talking points for Pakistan leading upto the tournament:
-The return of Imad Wasim and pacer Mohammed Amir from their retirements.
-Form and strike rate of Babar and Rizwan
-Fiery form of Pakistan pace trio Shaheen, Naseem and Rauf
-Poor form of Saim Ayyub, who is yet to hit a fifty in 19 T20Is and has scored 286 runs only at an average of 15.05.
Top performers in this phase:

Babar Azam: 668 runs in 20 matches and 18 innings at an average of 39.29 and a strike rate of 143.34, with a century and six fifties in 18 innings. Best score 101*. Mohammed Rizwan: 568 runs in 18 matches and 16 innings at an average of 51.63 and a strike rate of 135.88, with five half-centuries. His best score is 98*.

Fakhar Zaman: 446 runs in 16 matches at an average of 31.85 and a strike rate of 149.16, with three fifties.
Shaheen Afridi: 33 wickets in 19 matches at an average of 16.81 and an economy rate of 8.26, with best figures of 4/30.

Haris Rauf: 23 wickets in 11 matches at an average of 16.65 and an economy rate of 9.11, with best figures of 4/18.
Abaas Afridi: 16 wickets in nine matches at an average of 16.50 and a strike rate of 10.8, with best figures of 3/20.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Khan.

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