The international recalls handed to Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad have not gone to plan so far for Pakistan with both batmen failing miserably in the two T20I losses to Sri Lanka in Lahore.
Head coach/chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq has been at pains to justify their inclusion and has pointed to a lack of options on the domestic circuit as one of the primary reasons for the duo’s comeback.
As the hosts get ready to take on Sri Lanka in a dead-rubber clash in Lahore on Wednesday, we look at three batsmen Misbah can turn to instead of Akmal and Shehzad.
The 27-year-old wicketkeeper batsman can definitely bat as shown by his two excellent ODI tons against Australia in the UAE earlier this year. Despite those displays, Rizwan inexplicably found himself out of favour for the 2019 World Cup squad.
His direct competition in the team being skipper Sarfraz Ahmed has not helped matters for the Lahore Qalandars man but he does possess the ability to play as purely a specialist batsman.
With Sarfraz’s own batting struggles showing no signs of ending, Rizwan can be the perfect cover while also doubling up as a top-order batsman.
The veteran all-rounder was one of the key components in Pakistan’s rise to the top of the T20I rankings but has surprisingly found himself out of the reckoning for the ongoing series.
Pakistan’s loss has been Guyana Amazon Warriors’ gain with the 37-year-old leading the team’s unbeaten campaign in the Caribbean Premier League with emphatic style.
The right-hander has been averaging nearly 79 with the bat in the tournament and wrote himself into the record books on Sunday by becoming only the fourth batsman in history to register 9,000 T20 runs.
He has already stated his desire to participate in the T20 World Cup in Australia next year and Misbah would be foolish to not lean on his experience and prowess.
The 31-year-old opening batsman announced himself to international cricket in style earlier this year by slamming a superb 112 on his ODI debut against Australia. The Lahore-born batsman was in fine flow in the recent ODI series against Sri Lanka as well with his 67-ball 74 helping the hosts chase down a target of 298 runs with considerable ease.
Yet, he was surprisingly dropped for the T20I series to follow with Misbah opting to call back Akmal and Shehzad instead. His free-flowing game is tailor-made for the shortest format and Pakistan would be served well by blooding him into the set-up for the T20 World Cup.
Pakistan handed recalls to Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad for the clashes against the Lankans but both the batsmen have flopped in the two defeats in Lahore which have resulted in a third consecutive T20I series loss for the No1 ranked Men in Green.
Shehzad has been able to muster just 17 runs in his two innings so far, Akmal has been even worse with two consecutive golden ducks to his name. While the two have failed to deliver the required results on their comebacks, the Pakistan head coach has bemoaned the lack of other batsmen putting their hands up in the country’s domestic T20 circuit.
“Both these players have performed well wherever they’ve played in the last one year. Ahmed’s performance in Pakistan Super League was remarkable enough for a chance, while Umar, whichever format he played, was among the good ones,” Misbah was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo after his side’s 35-run loss on Monday.
“It’s unfortunate that in our circuit, there is no other batsman in T20s who had performed better than them. Players who have performed in domestic surely deserve a chance, and that’s why we offered them (a comeback).”
Many have questioned Misbah’s decision to ring in the changes for a squad which has already established itself as the top T20I outfit in the world, but the former skipper remains convinced that experimentation is the way forward in the run up to next year’s T20 World Cup in Australia.
“There are a lot of reasons for this experimentation. Yes, we are the No1 team in the world but mostly our strength has been standing on Babar Azam scoring runs and with him not scoring in two games, we are exposed badly,” Misbah explained.
“We need to find out six or more match-winners, we need to have more dependable batsmen, we need powerhouses in the top and middle, and in bowling we need to take wickets upfront and in the death overs and we need to have good finishers.
“But we failed overall, we are struggling in every department, and it’s a big eye-opener for us. We didn’t play to our strengths and couldn’t deliver. We are looking for more batsmen rather than just relying on one or two.”
Pakistan entered 2019 on the back of 11 straight series wins in the 20-over format but Sarfraz Ahmed and his men have come unstuck with just one victory to show for in the current year, while the losses’ column has swelled to five.
The hosts have been comprehensively outplayed in both T20Is so far by a relatively inexperienced Sri Lanka squad missing key names such as skipper Lasith Malinga, Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis.
In their absence, unheralded names such as Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Shehan Jayasuriya and the recalled Danushka Gunathilaka have set the stage on fire with some explosive displays.
On Monday, it was Rajapaksa’s moment to turn hero with the left-hander smashing his way to 48-ball 77 that helped the visitors rack up a daunting 182-6 after batting first. That splendid effort was backed up by an electric display with the ball by leg-spinner Wanindu Hasaranga who claimed three top-order wickets in the space of four deliveries to derail Pakistan’s chase.
Praising the youngsters for playing fearless cricket on the big stage, stand-in skipper Dasun Shanaka has called on the Sri Lankan selectors to give them more chances after the completion of the Pakistan tour.
“We played quality cricket and that’s why we won,” Shanaka stated after Monday’s win.
“Rajapaksa played a masterclass innings. These youngsters should get a good chance after the series and I am sure selectors will look at it.”
While the visitors are currently bouncing with confidence, the wounded hosts will hope to provide the home fans in Lahore with a consolation win when the two sides take the field for the final T02I on Wednesday.
Chris Silverwood was described as “the standout candidate” after succeeding Trevor Bayliss as England head coach.
While Bayliss fulfilled his remit by helping England lift the World Cup for the first time, there is no escaping the conclusion that the Test side stagnated on his watch.
Here, the PA news agency looks at the issues facing Silverwood over the next few months as he takes the reins of an international side for the first time.
Spotlight back on Tests
Following a four-year cycle in which the limited-overs formats were prioritised because of a World Cup on home soil, England’s failure to regain the Ashes has led to a promise of a policy shift back towards Test cricket. Australia leaving these shores with the urn in tow for the first time since 2001 highlighted some glaring issues facing the side and winning them back in 2021-22 is high on the agenda.
Having served as bowling coach for the last two years, Silverwood should have a few ideas on how to improve matters. Top of his to do list should be identifying a clear strategy alongside Root to take the side forward.
Blood new faces in New Zealand
Silverwood’s first assignment takes him to New Zealand for five Twenty20 internationals and two Tests, where there are a host of new faces in both squads. With the T20 World Cup a year away, it seems an ideal opportunity to test the likes of Pat Brown and Tom Banton, both of whom have impressed in the Vitality Blast this year.
The Test series, meanwhile, does not count towards the World Test Championship so there is no need to take a risk with senior players who may still be feeling the effects of a punishing summer, which could present opportunities for Dom Sibley, Saqib Mahmood and Matthew Parkinson.
Since Silverwood joined Bayliss’ backroom team, England have been bowled out for less than 100 four times while under the Australian’s four-year tenure, they lost all 10 wickets in a session on four occasions, having never done so between 1938 and 2016.
There were signs towards the end of the summer that England are ready to adopt a more sensible approach to their batting but a settled top three – in which ballast is preferred ahead of all-out aggression – would likely expedite proceedings.
Don’t forget about the white ball
Eoin Morgan’s unprecedented success as limited-overs captain means there should be no need for a dramatic upheaval while he remains at the helm. However, with T20 World Cups in 2020 and 2021, Silverwood cannot be entirely focused on England’s red-ball fortunes.
It was therefore heartening to hear Ashley Giles, England and Wales Cricket Board managing director, speak of Silverwood’s “detailed thoughts on what it will take to win the Ashes in Australia and win major ICC white-ball tournaments”.
Following their visit to New Zealand, England head straight to South Africa for four Tests, three one-day internationals and three T20s, followed by a two-Test stop-off in Sri Lanka. It is an arduous winter schedule after an unrelenting summer – in which the likes of Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Root and many others barely had time to bask in their World Cup triumph before the Ashes – and leaves a number of core players at risk of burnout.
If Silverwood is to get the best out of his troops, their workloads must be closely monitored.
Provided by Press Association Sports