Regarded by many as underdogs at the start of their Test tour of Ireland and England, the Pakistan side lead by Sarfaraz Ahmed seemed to prove a point to their detractors with convincing victories against Ireland and a drawn series against a much-vaunted England side.
Whilst the result at Leeds in the 2nd Test may have not been to Pakistan’s liking, the team would have drawn great confidence from the manner in which they fought for each other and battled in alien early-summer conditions in the United Kingdom to prove more than an able opposition for the hosts.
Buoyed by the success of their Test side and armed with this boost in their collective self-esteem, Pakistan’s 15-member T20 squad will be now looking forward to the 2 T20Is against a spirited Scotland side on the 12th and 13th June in Edinburgh.
Considered one of the finest T20 outfits in the world at the moment, the Pakistan side currently rules the ICC’s Men’s T20I Team Rankings as the number one ranked team in this format. The rise to the top for Pakistan, a side not normally known for excellence in the shorter formats of the game, has been remarkable but not totally unexpected due to the success of their own Twenty20 League tournament, the Pakistan Super League.
The PSL has encouraged a new generation of young Pakistan cricketers to showcase their skills in a high-quality competition featuring some of the world’s top T20 cricketers. The benefits of this tournament as demonstrated by the upsurge of some young three-dimensional cricketers have been obvious and goes a long way in explaining Pakistan’s vast improvement in the Twenty20 format of the game.
The summer of 2017 had seen young Pakistan talents in action as they helped their team overpower some of the top sides to lift the Champions Trophy against all odds. On 12th and 13th June, cricket followers in Scotland will get a chance to see and experience the abilities of some of those talented players as they ply their trade in Edinburgh.
Amongst the players who are sure to play for Pakistan in the two games will be a young man whose trademark wicket-taking celebrations have earned him near-cult status amongst his followers. Hasan Ali may just be listed as a medium-fast bowler in the team sheet but make no mistake, the highest wicket-taker in the 2017 Champions Trophy, is more than capable of making the opposition pay and along with another youngster in the shape of Shadab Khan will present the toughest challenge for Scotland’s batsmen.
Mohammad Amir’s return to international cricket has been a mixed bag so far and there are concerns about his fitness which could play in the hands of Scotland as the number 11 ranked team in ICC’s T20I Team Rankings look to upset their illustrious opponents. But make no mistake, Mohammad Amir remains a big draw for cricket fans wherever he goes.
Whilst bowling has always been Pakistan’s strong point, the inconsistency of the tourists batting is an open secret. The recent performances during the Test series point to issues with abilities to bat in alien conditions, but the Pakistan T20I team will have some fresh faces with proven track-records in the Twenty20 format such as Shoaib Malik, whilst others such as Hussain Talat and Asif Ali will be eager to impress and cement their places in a competitive format in Pakistani cricketing circles.
In Ahmed Shehzad and Fakhar Zaman, Pakistan will have 2 batsmen at the top of the order who can wreak havoc in the first few overs but the main threat for Scotland and Pakistan’s real fire-power could come from some exciting new names in the shape of Asif Ali and Hussain Talat. Both of these players performed above par for their PSL side Islamabad United in the 2018 edition of the tournament and along with the likes of the seasoned campaigners like Shoaib Malik and Sarfaraz Ahmed could easily take the games away from Scotland.
Whilst the outcome of the two games seems heavily in the favour of the visitors, the real interest from a Pakistan point of view will come from the performances of their youngsters who will have a perfect chance to impress the selectors and give an indication of future success. At just 18 years of age, Shaheen Shah Afridi could well be the name that is mentioned a few times by the time the 2-match T20I series comes to an end. The fast-bowler is regarded highly by many including the likes of Rahul Dravid and his performances, if selected to play, could provide some excellent viewing for crowds at The Grange in a few days time.
Cricket in Scotland has a strong following and with the hosts having played well in recent times to attain a ranking just below a more established side such as Bangladesh, the Pakistan side under the leadership of Sarfaraz Ahmed will be under no illusions as to the quality of opposition they will face and could easily discover to their discomfort that the Scottish side will be no pushovers.