Pakistan are No.1 on the MRF Tyres ICC T20I Team rankings, but they come into the series against Bangladesh with six losses in their last six completed games. Will the return of the experienced Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez help them turn things around?
Pakistan v Bangladesh
Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore
Friday, 24 January; 07:00pm local, 02.00pm GMT
Pakistan won only a solitary T20I in 2019, losing each of their eight other completed games, including a 3-0 whitewash against a depleted Sri Lankan side at home in October. The management was moved to make wholesome changes after that series, axing Sarfraz Ahmed and appointing Babar Azam as the captain.
Azam's first series at the helm – in Australia – was an unenviable initiation as his side suffered two big defeats. Now back in the comfort of home against a side facing their own challenges, he will want to stamp his authority.
He has a promising young side to work with, including four uncapped players – Ahsan Ali, Amad Butt, Usman Qadir and Haris Rauf. Of those Pakistan will perhaps be most eager to give Rauf a cap after he dazzled in the Big Bash League, demonstrating his sharp pace and accuracy while picking up 16 wickets from just seven matches for Melbourne Stars, including a hat-trick.
Can the two veterans help Pakistan regain their touch in the shortest format? https://t.co/uuUog6F0xA— ICC (@ICC) January 17, 2020
Also back in the side are seniors like Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, who were dropped for the Australia series. Pakistan will hope for them to lend more solidity to a mercurial batting line-up.
Bangladesh showed some spark against a young Indian side in their most recent assignment, in November 2019, registering their first ever win against the opposition, but lost the series after successive defeats. They will be happy to welcome Tamim Iqbal, their leading-run scorer across formats, who is back into the fold after a break, and adds great value to the team with his experience.
Younger players like Mohammad Naim – who was the leading run-scorer in that India series with 143 runs from three knocks – and Afif Hossain have exhibited tremendous potential in their short careers so far, and Bangladesh will know that if they click, they will be in with a strong chance.
What they said:
Shoaib Malik (Pakistan batsman): "Bangladesh are bringing a strong team. Their system has become stronger over the years. A well-balanced side is coming. But if you look at our T20 team, we have lots of players who have plenty of experience."
Mahmudullah (Bangladesh captain): "Everyone in the squad has done well in the BPL. I am confident with my team. We have to see how well we can apply ourselves in Pakistan."
Weather in Lahore is cool and the temperature is expected to drop to single digits later in the evening. The pitch is expected to be a well-balanced one with support for all disciplines.
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