Players to watch during the first T20I between England and Pakistan
After getting the better of Pakistan in the Test series, England will be hoping for another series victory over the tourists in the upcoming three-match T20I series. Players from both teams will be eager to make an impression as the action returns to Manchester following two Tests at Southampton. With the first T20I between the teams slated to begin from Friday, we have a look at a few potential difference-makers from both sides.
One of the most exciting youngsters to have emerged from English cricket since the days of Kevin Pietersen, Tom Banton will be keen to show the rest of the world what he is capable of in the T20Is against Pakistan. Blessed with an abundance of talent, Banton has all the shots in the book and comes with a similar batting style to that of Pietersen’s.
A top-order batsman, he enjoyed a breakthrough season with Somerset in 2019. However, he still needs to translate his county performances for country and will be confident in his ability to do the same after scoring 58 in his last outing in national colours during England’s final ODI against Ireland.
The English all-rounder will be looking to kick on and re-establish himself in the limited-overs setup after making a successful return to the team in the recent ODI series against Ireland. Willey, who was an agonising last-minute exclusion from England’s World Cup-winning squad last year, has looked like a man on a mission ever since his return to the team and proved what he can do with the bat as well as the ball against Ireland.
He took eight wickets in three games against the Irish, including a career-best of 5-for-30. Willey will also be a threat while batting, having looked solid with the willow in hand and whacking an unbeaten 47 and 51 in his two innings against Ireland.
Unsurprisingly, Babar Azam will be Pakistan’s most prized wicket against the English on Friday. Azam managed to get starts in all three matches against England in the Test series but failed to convert any of them into a century. However, the change of approach to his batting in the T20Is could suit Azam’s style.
He scored an unbeaten 63 in his last outing for Pakistan in the Tests and will be confident about being amongst the runs in the T20Is at Manchester, having scored 69 in the first innings of the only Test between the teams at the same venue earlier this month.
The left-arm fast bowler has always enjoyed bowling in England and thrived in those conditions in the past. After retiring from Tests in July of last year to prolong his limited-overs career, Mohammad Amir’s focus has been on the shorter formats of the game.
One of the best exponents of swing, Amir will be relishing the opportunity of bowling in England and keeping things tight, at the very least. He’s already played T20 matches this season having participated in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) earlier this year. Amir, though, wasn’t always at his rhythmic best in the last edition of the PSL and will look to make amends with Pakistan’s national team at the expense of the English batsmen.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Mike Hewitt
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