Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Pakistan take on Ireland to kick off World Cup preparations

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PAKISTAN opener Saim Ayub bats in the nets at Castle Avenue on Thursday.—courtesy PCB

DUBLIN: Pakistan will kick off their final warm-up ahead of the upcoming T20 World Cup when they take on Ireland in the first of the three-match Twenty20 International series at Castle Avenue on Friday.

For the Babar Azam-led side, the series will be about finalising the team’s best combination for the T20 showpiece, which is set to be held in the United States and the Caribbean next month.

Pakistan will play four T20Is against England following the Ireland series, with the team management expected to field the first-choice XI in the games against defending T20 World Cup champions.

However, Pakistan may test some players against Ireland, continuing the rotation strategy from the recent four-match series against New Zealand.

With pacer Haris Rauf back from injury for the first time since he picked one up in this year’s Pakistan Super League, the national side will give him a go as the right-armer looks to make a strong case for the World Cup.

The Pakistan pace bowling battery is ripe with options, with Haris only making it stronger, yet as much competitive, given the likes of Mohammad Amir, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hassan Ali vying for a place.

AMIR TO MISS OPENER

Amir, however, will not take part in the first T20, since he travelled to Dublin via Dubai in the wee hours of Friday. The left-armer, who rescinded his international retirement in March, hadn’t received his Ireland visa.

PACER Naseem Shah bowls.—PCB

A Pakistan Cricket Board spokesperson told Dawn said that the Ireland embassy had not rejected Amir’s visa application, but that it just got delayed until the completion of due procedure.

The spokesperson said PCB chairman Mohsin Naqvi also talked to Cricket Ireland officials, urging them to play their due role to get Amir’s issue sorted.

Wicket-keeper Azam Khan, who couldn’t feature against the BlackCaps due to an injury, is expected to play, as Pakistan, once again, look to give him a chance to prove his mettle as a power-hitter lower down the order.

Irfan Khan Niazi, who also missed part of the New Zealand series due to injury after making his debut against the

Kiwis, may also be tried again, but he will face tough competition for a place in the side with Usman Khan likely to be rewarded for his cameo in Pakistan’s last match.

Pakistan conducted a “light” training session on the eve of the first match, according to their assistant coach Azhar Mahmood, who believed Irel­and couldn’t be taken lightly.

“We know our combination, we played the previous series, and we know who our openers will be and where we need to work in which areas,” he said. “Our pattern will remain the same. Now, it’s time for execution in the middle.”

Azhar was wary of Ireland’s capabilities, especially with the side playing at home.

“Ireland is playing at home, and they have a good understanding of the conditions,” he noted. “They have a good bowling line-up, and they know these conditions very well.

“We cannot underestimate the Irish team because they have a lot of experience in county cricket.

“But we are quite hopeful that our preparation, our strength, we will play our cricket on that and enjoy it because this is our World Cup preparation time.”

Squads:

PAKISTAN: Babar Azam (captain), Abrar Ahmed, Azam Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Moham­mad Abbas Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Irfan Khan, Naseem Shah, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Khan

IRELAND: Paul Stirling (captain), Mark Adair, Ross Adair, Andrew Balbirnie, Curtis Campher, Gareth Del­any, George Dockrell, Graham Hume, Barry McCarthy, Neil Rock, Harry Tector, Lorcan Tucker, Ben White, Craig Young.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2024

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