Pakistan's Sarfraz Ahmed (3R) celebrates with teammates at the end of second Twenty20 International cricket match between Scotland and Pakistan at the Grange Cricket Club in Edinburgh, Scotland, on June 13, 2018. - Pakistan won by 84 runs. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Champions Trophy winners back in England and dreaming of more success

In the last major ODI tournament to be held in England, the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, Pakistan emerged victorious after beating fierce rivals India in the final.

It was their first major ICC final since reaching the 1999 World Cup final… in England. Major tournament success on English soil is a Pakistani speciality then.

Unfortunately, results since that win at the Oval have been inconsistent at best – and plenty would argue poor.

Individually, there have been plenty of positives – Champions Trophy final centurion Fakhar Zaman is one batsman in continued good form, for example.

Zaman is one of two current Pakistani batsmen with an ODI batting average above 50, with both he and the other – Imam-ul-Haq – recording centuries in their pre-tournament series with England.

But Pakistan have conceded plenty of runs too, especially at the top of the order, and their bowling attack remains undecided ahead of this World Cup.

Mohammad Amir was not named in the initial squad despite his Champions Trophy final heroics just two years ago and only made it because the ineffectiveness of other options preferred in the recently completed bilateral series with England.

If Pakistan’s bowlers could start to match their batsmen, there is the making of a world-class team in this current squad. The Champions Trophy win proves that.

A series whitewash against Australia and heavy defeats to England at the start of this World Cup tour prove the gulf is still vast to the top teams, however.

Key player: Imam-ul-Haq

When Imam-ul-Haq posted 151 in the third ODI against England during their pre-World Cup series, his batting average in the format climbed above 60.

It was his 27th ODI innings, during which time he has scored five 50s and has now passed 100 on six further occasions.

With uncle, and former national captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq the chairman of selectors, Imam was always going to face cries of nepotism but his form has silenced any doubters.

Notable for his glasses, Imam’s reputation has grown and grown, with his knock in that third game at Bristol highlighting exactly what he brings to this Pakistan team.

While there is depth in the batting department, Imam’s ODI batting average proves he is at the forefront of the current team. Aged just 23, he could be there for years to come too.

Others to watch

Fakhar Zaman

Like Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman has an ODI average above 50 – after 34 matches, it sat at 52.83 thanks to nine 50s and four centuries.

Among those four three-figure scores, one was his match-winning 114 from 106 balls in the 2017 Champions Trophy final against India at the Oval, and another is his 210* against Zimbabwe.

No other Pakistan batsman has ever passed 200 in an ODI, and his form has continued since then too – including his 138 in the second match of the current series with England.

Zaman’s strike rate at the top of the order was key to Pakistan’s success in England at the Champions Trophy and they will be keen on a repeat this time out.

Hasan Ali

Pakistan’s leading wicket-taker in the ICC Champions Trophy, Hasan Ali arrived in England again on the back of his blistering form at the Pakistan Super League.

Playing for Peshawar Zalmi, Ali took 25 wickets in 13 matches in that tournament – including three four-wicket hauls – and boasted an economy rate of 6.77 runs per over.

He arrived for the current tour, including the pre-World Cup matches, with 77 wickets to his name from 43 ODI innings.

Named Player of the Tournament at the Champions Trophy, with Pakistan’s bowlers viewed as a potential weak link, the performances of Hasan Ali could be key to their hopes of springing another surprise.

Babar Azam

The third part of Pakistan’s eye-catching top-order trio, Babar Azam hit a T20 century in a warm-up game against Leicestershire to highlight his current form.

Either side, he hit an unbeaten 68 against Northamptonshire and 65 in the T20 international against England.

Another half-century in the ODI series – his 11th in the format, alongside eight centuries – continued his good form and highlighted his importance up the order.

If all three of Zaman, Imam and Azam can fire, Pakistan’s top order can take some pressure off their bowlers.

Pakistan squad for ICC Cricket World Cup 2019

Name Age Role
Sarfaraz Ahmed (c) 32 Wicket-keeper-batsman
Babar Azam 24 Batsman
Shoaib Malik 37 All-rounder (OS)
Fakhar Zaman 29 Batsman
Imam-ul-Haq 23 Batsman
Asif Ali 27 Batsman
Mohammad Hafeez 38 All-rounder (OS)
Shadab Khan 20 All-rounder (LS)
Imad Wasim 30 All-rounder (SLA)
Hasan Ali 25 Bowler (RFM)
Mohammad Amir 27 Bowler (LFM)
Shaheen Afridi 19 Bowler (LF)
Wahab Riaz 33 Bowler (LF)
Mohammad Hasnain 19 Bowler (RFM)
Haris Sohail 29 Batsman

 

Key fixture

June 16 – Pakistan vs India (Old Trafford, Manchester)

This will be the seventh meeting between Pakistan and India at the Cricket World Cup, and the men in green are yet to beat their fierce rivals.

With political tensions and conflict back home showing no signs of easing, the fixture at Old Trafford will be a rare one between the two nations.

For Pakistan’s cricketers, a first World Cup victory against India would make them national heroes – and set them up well for the second half of the group stage. After victory against them in the ICC Champions Trophy final, they have proved it is within their reach.

Pakistan Cricket World Cup 2019 fixtures

May 31 West Indies Trent Bridge, Nottingham
June 3 England Trent Bridge, Nottingham
June 7 Sri Lanka County Ground, Bristol
June 12 Australia County Ground, Taunton
June 16 India Old Trafford, Manchester
June 23 South Africa Lord’s, London
June 26 New Zealand Edgbaston, Birmingham
June 29 Afghanistan Headingley, Leeds
July 5 Bangladesh Lord’s, London

 

Happy to avoid

Ireland

It might now be 12 years ago, but Ireland’s victory against Pakistan in Jamaica on St Patrick’s Day 2007 remains one of the World Cup’s most iconic moments.

Pakistan went into the tournament ranked fourth in the world but crashed out in the group stage after the Irish bowlers ripped through their batting line-up to cart them out for 132.

Form guide

Pakistan whitewashed both Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe in the aftermath of their ICC Champions Trophy win in 2017 but were beaten 5-0 by New Zealand in between.

Since then, defeat to Bangladesh in the second group stage cost them a place in the Asia Cup final and they have failed to win any of their next four bilateral ODI series.

After losing 5-0 to Australia in the UAE, Pakistan have endured a difficult start to their time in England too, with the hosts dominating their pre-World Cup ODI series.

Prediction

While their victory at the ICC Champions Trophy is a reminder not to write Pakistan off, they are not expected to reach the semi-finals of this tournament.

They have been inconsistent at best lately, struggling to deal with some big-hitting batting and conceding plenty of runs. A mid-table finish looks the most likely outcome.

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