Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Pakistan's got a serious chance in the Champions Trophy

Pakistan were supposed to play 6 ODI matches in the UK leading up to the Champions Trophy but the weather permitted them to play only 4.

And they lost none of them.

If there was ever an effective way to warm up for a major tournament, this is it.

An easy win over Scotland, a nerve wrecking 1-0 series win over Ireland, which could have easily been 2-0 to Ireland, and a clinical victory over South Africa should give Pakistan enough confidence going into the ICC Champions Trophy, a tournament that they have never won.

As always unpredictability surrounds the Pakistan team. Even though they beat South Africa easily, the fans have no confidence in the team at all due to their ability to implode on any given day.

The same common theme of great bowling, coupled with unreliable batting, characterizes the Pakistan team.

However, there is a new look to it. There is no Younis Khan, no Shahid Afridi, no Umar Akmal.

I don't fully support the exclusion of Afridi and Umar, however I believe that without Younis Khan, the ODI team is a lot more stable, and without Afridi it is a lot more balanced.

Mohammad Hafeez at number 3 gives the batting line up a new look and a lot more solidity. Kamran Akmal is definitely better off at number 7, and the sacking of Afridi allows Pakistan to field 3 seamers, which is needed in England.

All the batsmen, besides Nasir Jamshed, have been among the runs in the 4 matches that Pakistan has played. Poor Nasir hasn't crossed 20, but he is too good a batsman to not come good in the important matches.

Hafeez with an unbeaten century and a fifty, Misbah with an unbeaten 80 odd, Asad Shafiq with 80 odd, Imran Farhat with a couple of 50s, Shoaib Malik with a hard fought 40 odd, Kamran Akmal with a match winning 80 odd, and Umar Amin with his unbeaten 20 odd runs last night against South Africa have all got good outings at the crease over the past two weeks.

We can always count on Pakistan's bowling to be good; and if the batting can remain steady, Pakistan can be the most dangerous team on show in the Champions Trophy.

Martin Guptill, Shane Watson, JP Duminy, Virat Kohli, and Dinesh Karthik have all shown that the pitches in England this time around are very batsman friendly.

This can only be good for Pakistan as the bowlers can trouble the best batsmen on any wicket, and our batsmen only look good on flat decks.

In Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan, Pakistan has got a potent opening attack. Asad Ali has impressed in the short time he has been with the team and Wahab Riaz has looked good on the UK pitches thus far. But the team will have two choose between Asad and Wahab.

I like Asad the bowler and he is definitely more effective than Wahab, but Wahab's batting just might give him the edge over Asad.

Add Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez to the mix, and its an attack that would be the envy of most teams.

I am not sure who they will play at 6 - Shoaib Malik or Umar Amin. I guess that will depend on the conditions. Umar can bowl handy medium pace, while Malik provides a spin option.

Probable playing XI: 1. Imran Farhat 2. Nasir Jamshed 3. Mohammad Hafeez 4. Asad Shafiq 5. Misbah Ul Haq 6. Umar Amin / Shoaib Malik 7. Kamran Akmal 8. Asad Ali / Wahab Riaz 9. Saeed Ajmal 10. Junaid Khan 11. Mohammad Irfan.

Pakistan kicks off its campaign on Friday against the West Indies at the Oval, before shifting base to Birmingham where it will play South Africa and India the following week.

And this time round, Pakistan's got a serious chance!

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