World XI batsman Hashim Amla and bowler Morne Morkel share their thoughts ahead of the final T20I match against Pakistan in Lahore (1:28)
Finally, it is about the cricket once more. All the talk of the World XI’s tour of Pakistan being more than just a cricket tour may well have been poignant, but the competition can only be worthwhile if there’s something on the line and if the action on the cricket field actually matters.
The first T20I especially suffered for this lack of consequence; the fans seemed simply happy that cricket was being played in their country, and were there for a party. With the game itself a bit of a dud, the whole thing felt rather flat afterwards.
The second game, both in its competitiveness and drama, reminded everyone what it was they had so desperately missed in their country, and completely divorced from its wider perspective, achieved its purest purpose. A game of cricket was on, and boy, was it worth watching. The crowd may not have got the result they wanted, but Thisara Perera’s late heroics ensured that Gaddafi Stadium on Friday won’t just be a venue for the culmination of festivities, but a Colosseum that befits professional competition.
Pakistan’s biggest concern, following their failure to defend 174 on Wednesday, is regarding the fitness of Hasan Ali. Coach Mickey Arthur expressed hope he would be fit to take the field on Friday but said they’d assess him on the morning of the game. Usman Shinwari, who played in Hasan’s place in the second T20I, wasn’t an option captain Sarfraz Ahmed looked too comfortable using; he bowled just one over in the innings.
As for World XI, the bowling looks much stronger with the inclusion of Samuel Badree and Morne Morkel’s first three overs on Wednesday, in which he conceded just seven runs, means he could go into the final game with plenty of confidence. The visitors have the upper hand in the power hitting department, and if Thisara, Darren Sammy and David Miller all click, Pakistan would be in danger of having the game wrenched away from them.
Pakistan LWWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
World XI WL
In the spotlight
Recently appointed Pakistan’s all-format captain, Sarfraz Ahmed has so far had a quiet tour, scoring 4 in the first T20I, before being dismissed for a golden duck on Wednesday. In the field, his decisions came in for scrutiny, following the last-over loss, with some suggestions that the bowlers – Shinwari in particular – weren’t utilised to the best of their ability. There is nothing in the slightest that would indicate a sustained dip in form or judiciousness. But as the man leading the Pakistan side in such a feel-good series, nothing would cap the tour off better – at least for Pakistan fans – than the wicketkeeper-batsman making a winning contribution in the decider.
Tamim Iqbal has offered tasters of what he is capable of in both games, cameos of 18 and 23 whetting the crowd’s appetite, but is so far yet to follow up with a main course. It’s not like he can’t score big runs in the format; he has a hundred and a pair of 80s, and the left-hander in his groove is perhaps the epitome of a subcontinental player’s talent being fully expressed. His opening partner Hashim Amla was able to kick on after a start in the second game, eventually making a match-winning contribution. If Tamim follows his lead on Friday, the results could be far more destructive.
Pakistan’s top six are fairly settled, and any tinkering that might occur is likely to happen lower down. Arthur stressed the importance of giving new players opportunities, so Faheem Ashraf, who faced just one ball and bowled just one over, could come back in. Hasan Ali, if fit, will also replace Usman Shinwari.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), 6 Imad Wasim, 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Sohail Khan, 10 Hasan Ali/Usman Shinwari, 11 Rumman Raees
Very popular in Pakistan, Sammy’s omission from the playing XI in the second T20I came as a surprise, and he might start again. George Bailey is the only World-XI player yet to get a game and could find himself thrown in for the decider.
World XI (possible): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Tim Paine (wk), 4 Faf du Plessis (capt), 5 Thisara Perera, 6 David Miller/George Bailey, 7 Darren Sammy, 8 Ben Cutting, 9 Samuel Badree, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Imran Tahir
Pitch and conditions
The pitch will play no different to the first two games, and another high-scoring contest is on the cards. The second game was slightly disrupted by windy conditions, but nothing of the sort is expected for the finale.
Stats and trivia
No player – who has played more than 10 innings – averages more in T20 cricket since the start of 2016 than Hashim Amla. The South African opener averages 78 in this period.
Shoaib Malik’s 39 during the second match made him Pakistan’s highest T20I run-getter, taking his tally to 1702. He overtook Umar Akmal, who now occupies second place with 1690.
Source: ESPN Crickinfo