Buoyed by its overwhelming show in the first Twenty20 International on Tuesday, Pakistan will look to clinch the three-match series against the World XI at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Wednesday.
A strong batting display headlined by Babar Azam’s career-best 86 off just 52 deliveries was the perfect celebration of the return of top-flight cricket to Pakistan. The home side then defended its 197 for 5 with great composure, restricting the power-packed World XI to 177 for 7.
While Pakistan seems to have most bases covered even in the absence of Mohammad Amir, the left-arm paceman who is away in the United Kingdom, the World XI will be better off for the hit-out on Tuesday. Arriving in Lahore after a two-day camp in Dubai, Faf du Plessis’ side took time to hit its straps, but with a greater understanding of the conditions, it will be a far more rounded and dangerous unit a second time around.
The key to World XI’s success will revolve around not allowing Pakistan’s free-scoring batsmen to get away from it at the start. That will mean wickets up front, which it couldn’t manage on Tuesday despite the early dismissal of Fakhar Zaman. Imran Tahir will once again loom as the central figure to du Plessis’ plans, but the South African leg-spinner will welcome help from his new-ball colleagues if Pakistan is to be kept down to a manageable total.
Several of the World XI batsmen got off to starts but no one kicked on. That is something du Plessis and Andy Flower, the coach, would have taken note of. The World XI boasts a formidable batting line-up full of explosive power and great experience, but it will be imperative for one of the top three to bat deep into the innings so that the power-hitters in the middle order are not called upon to don the consolidation role.
A big turnout at the Gaddafi Stadium watched Pakistan turn on the magic in the first big international fixture in the country in more than eight years. Buoyed by that result and the competitiveness of the game, it is expected that more people will turn out for what could be the series-deciding showdown. Pakistan has its noses in front but it will know that by now, the World XI would have become a more cohesive outfit, so Sarfraz Ahmed and his men can hardly afford to take anything for granted.
Pakistan: Ahmed Shehzad, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), Shoaib Malik, Usman Khan, Fahim Ashraf, Umar Amin, Mohammad Nawaz, Imad Wasim, Aamer Yamin, Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Rumman Raees, Sohail Khan.
World XI: Tim Paine(wk), Faf du Plessis (capt), Hashim Amla, Grant Elliott, David Miller, George Bailey, Paul Collingwood, Ben Cutting, Tamim Iqbal, Darren Sammy, Thisara Perera, Imran Tahir, Morne Morkel, Samuel Badree.