Can young blood give Pakistan Asia Cup win?
Two-time Asia Cup champions Pakistan will look to win their third Asian championship on their virtual ‘home ground’, United Arab Emirates. The current Champions Trophy winners are one of the hot favourites for the tournament.
Pakistan were winners in 2012 when they stole victory over Bangladesh by two runs in Mirpur. They played in the 2014 final as well against Sri Lanka. However, Pakistan failed to reach the finals in T20I Asia Cup in 2016.
Pakistan’s ODI performance took a step back after the 2015 World Cup. They were in doubt of qualifying for the 2019 World Cup automatically. They made rise to their game in the Champions Trophy last year which they won. Despite losing 0-5 to New Zealand after beating Sri Lanka 5-0, Pakistan got their form back with hammering 5-0 win over Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe recently.
Ranked fifth at the moment, the Pakistanis are inspired by young blood. Likes of Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and Imam-ul-Haq have their real heroes over the past 12 months. Fakhar smashed a double hundred against Zimbabwe in an ODI. Imam already has four hundreds in nine matches.
A lot will depend on Babar Azam, Pakistan’s consistent ODI performer as well as vastly experienced player Shoaib Malik. Speedster Mohammad Amir will be watched out along with Hasan Ali.
Pakistan left out Imad Wasim and Mohammad Hafeez from the squad, giving them a break ahead of busy schedule. 18-year-old left-arm pacer Shaheen Afridi has earned call-up instead.
UAE’s conditions are very familiar to Pakistan. They regularly play their home games there. However, their record in UAE in last five years isn’t too convincing though. They won only against Sri Lanka (twice) and Windies since 2013 in UAE.
Pakistan will start their Asia Cup campaign with Group A match against Hong Kong in Dubai on September 16. They will lock horns with arch-rivals India at the same venue on September 19. In their face-off in 2014, Pakistan sealed one-wicket win over India in Mirpur. However, India had the upper hands in the T20I format two years ago.
Pakistan squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Amir, Shadab Khan, Imam ul Haq, Shan Masood, Babar Azam, Asif Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Nawaz, Fahim Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Usman Shinwari, Shaheen Afridi
Group A- versus Hong Kong, Dubai, September 16
Group A- versus India, Dubai, September 19