Champions Trophy 2013

Can 'young' Pakistan still pose a threat?

Umar Farooq

June 5, 2013

Comments: 37 | Text size: A | A

Overview

Pakistan are known for their mercurial performances but their record in ICC tournaments is impressive, having made the semi-finals in the last six events. Their previous outing in England was successful as they lifted the 2009 World Twenty20. However, their squad for the 2013 Champions Trophy is a relatively low-profile one, missing players including Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan and Umar Gul.

Although they are led by 39-year-old Misbah-ul-Haq, the tournament's oldest player, the squad is young. The bowling attack is a blend of lively left-arm pacers, including the 7'1" tall Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz, backed by the two right-armers, Asad Ali and Ehsan Adil. Offspinner Saeed Ajmal is the most experienced bowler in the side.

Gul's absence due to a knee injury is a big loss for Pakistan, however, even though he hasn't been at his best recently.The onus will be on Junaid as the strike seamer, and he will draw on his experience in English conditions when he briefly played for Lancashire last year.


Mohammad Hafeez takes a run, Ireland v Pakistan, 1st ODI, Dublin, May 23, 2013
Pakistan's batting and technique will be under scrutiny © AFP
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However, Pakistan's batting and fielding will be under the microscope. Nasir Jamshed and Imran Farhat are the potential openers but top-order collapses have often been the cause of Pakistan's downfall, piling the pressure on the middle order. The selectors made a bold decision to drop the out-of-form Younis Khan and focus on youth instead. In the current line-up, Shoaib Malik brings experience to the middle order, playing alongside youngsters, including Asad Shafiq and Umar Amin. Pakistan have also appointed the Australian, Trent Woodhill as their batting coach for the Champions Trophy.

The squad had a six-day camp in Abbottabad, at an altitude of 1260m in a bid to replicate the conditions in the UK. The camp, boosted by the presence of Wasim Akram and Javed Miandad, focused more on fitness and batting skills. They began their tour of England with two ODIs each against Scotland and Ireland and played a tied game against the latter in Dublin.

Key player

Pakistan will look to Mohammad Hafeez to provide strong starts at the top of the order. He takes time to settle in but once set, can score fluently. He struggled against Dale Steyn in South Africa but bounced back to score a hundred against Ireland earlier this month. Over the last 12 months, he has scored 519 runs and is the second-highest run-scorer in ODIs for Pakistan in that period.

Surprise package

Asad Ali. The right-arm seamer has done well under Misbah in domestic cricket with Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited and Faisalabad Wolves this year. When Pakistan's more experienced bowlers were leaking runs against Ireland, Ali stood out with economical figures of 1 for 22 off ten overs, including four maidens. He might not have express pace but his ability to hit the deck hard and bowl a decent line has made him a surprise prospect for Pakistan in English conditions. Another thing to look forward to is Misbah's new-found aggression in his batting, which was on view during the domestic T20 - he finished as the leading run-scorer with 206 runs at a strike-rate of 140.13, smashing 12 sixes.

Weakness

The team's batting and technique in English conditions will be under scrutiny. Pakistan have made some changes at the top of the order to negotiate the new ball, demoting Hafeez down to No.3 but the question is if the rest can maintain the momentum. With Afridi absent, there is no real fire-power in the lower order and much will depend on Kamran Akmal.

Champions Trophy history

Pakistan have featured in three semi-finals, beaten by New Zealand (in 2000 and 2009) and West Indies (2004). They failed to progress beyond the group stages in 1998, 2002 and 2006. In the last edition in 2009, a crucial dropped catch cost them a place in the final. However, they have an unbeaten record against India in the Champions Trophy (2-0), in contrast to the head-to-head record in the World Cup and World T20.

Recent form

Ranked No.6, Pakistan haven't been impressive in the last 12 months, winning nine and losing eight out of 19 ODIs. They were tested against Ireland in both games. The first one ended in a tie, while the second game saw the visitors recover from a batting collapse to scrape home by two wickets.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by NP_NY on (June 7, 2013, 7:34 GMT)

@Baseball-Sucks: LOL. You are a SL fan commenting in the Pak-WI preview and still can't stop talking about India. You must be seeing the Indian team even in your dreams after all the pounding India has laid on SL in the recent past. Anyway, getting to this game, this should be an interesting one, given the completely contrasting styles/skills in the two teams. Good luck to both!

Posted by   on (June 7, 2013, 7:04 GMT)

If the Pakistani seamers can remove the West Indies openers cheaply then they have a much better chance of winning. However, if the West Indian top order is allowed to make runs then winning the match is probably a long shot for Pakistan as their batting has not been glorious whether chasing or posting a target.

Posted by pinn on (June 7, 2013, 4:27 GMT)

Its always pleasure to see the pak bowling. Especially the left hand seamers keep coming generation after generation. 7.1 foot tall bowler, will be interesting to watch today ( hopefully he is getting picked in playing 11 ). But batting !?

Posted by   on (June 7, 2013, 1:05 GMT)

Hammad Azam will be better choice to soiab malik

Posted by   on (June 6, 2013, 17:35 GMT)

@wasim ghumro, mate its experience which they might be reffering. Misbah, malik, kamran, ajmal and hafeez have played good numbers of games, rest have hardly played mores than 30. Farhat has 51.

Posted by   on (June 6, 2013, 17:31 GMT)

This is wide open event. I don't think any 1 is fav. Its sunny these days with good tempratures. Unless its too over cast pitches may not make much difference.

For pakistan, nasir is out of form hasn't done anything in Sa , then nothing in domestic and nothing so far in uk. Farhat is hit an miss type of player, 1 good score 1 bad score, all pressure will be on bowling to deliver in all matches and middle order to perform .

Posted by BABashar on (June 6, 2013, 16:36 GMT)

With due respect to the well wishers of Team Pakistan, I would like to express my views with my best wishes for the team. I agree we are missing a few faces, but taking into consideration the available talents we must not be passimistic and should give a positive look. Undoubtedly our strength is bowling. Masha Allah we have the bunch of fearsome bowlers who are highly capable to destroy any sort of batting line. I am pretty sure no batting line in the tournament is capable to score more than 250 in the presence of Irfan Junaid Asad Adil and Wahab. To analyse their skills one should look back at the series played in India where the so-called strong batting line seemed to be at their mercy. The have the potential to mesmerize any world class batsman. We need our batsmen to come to the terms and put up fighting scores if batting first and if chasing, put their heads down, control their nerves to chase any size of total. For me, the team will not let us down. We must pray for them.

Posted by boomboomrazzaq on (June 6, 2013, 15:56 GMT)

Many people here are criticising Malik but you have to give the man credit. Foremost, he really shores up the batting and in many respects he has become the unsung hero of the order as he seems to score vital runs at vital times. Pakistan are often weak when chasing and he seems to be one the few members of the side who is able to keep the runs ticking over and finishing off a chase before it gets too nervy. Thus, he becomes a very useful batsman in the side and lets not forget the fact that he is able to accelerate. He has the ability to hit out when needed which, due to the supposed lack of firepower in our team, could be very useful indeed. Moreover, lets not forget his bowling. I mean he started as a bowler when he began and he provides a very useful 6th option whereby he has a knack of keeping the runs down and taking the odd wicket. Thus, I think it unfair that people are criticising Malik's selection even though he has been a vital player for the side over the past few years.

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