Pakistan v England, 1st T20, Dubai February 22, 2012

Focus turns to World Twenty20

Pakistan could be forgiven for a certain lack of enthusiasm as they approach the final stage of their three-series contest against England in the UAE. Beaten, homesick and recovering from flu, the Pakistan team looked a dispirited bunch by the time England secured a 4-0 clean sweep of the ODI series. Having out-witted and out-performed England in an absorbing Test series, Pakistan looked far less competent in the shorter format. By the end, they looked as if they just wanted to go home.

But this T20 series matters. With Pakistan having won the Test series and England the ODIs, Misbah-ul-Haq has described the T20 leg of the tour as "the decider" between the two countries.

More pertinently, the series provides both sides with an excellent opportunity to develop plans ahead of September's World T20 in Sri Lanka. After these three matches are played, England will have four more T20 internationals ahead of the event - one against West Indies and three against South Africa - while Pakistan are currently scheduled to play three - two against Sri Lanka and one against Australia. It leaves little time to identify the players or the tactics required for success.

"This is very important series for us," Misbah said. "We won the Tests, they won the ODIs and now this T20 series is almost the decider. And, if you consider that this is World Twenty20 year, it is very important for our confidence as a team to perform well and win this series. We need to regain our confidence.

"We want to win desperately, so that's why, at times, when the game is slipping out of your hands, we might look dispirited. But I don't think that we are. I know this team, they are keen to win and they are going to pull things back for us.

"We are really confident. We are putting in some good performances but we just can't finish them and go over the victory line. We need to turn good performance into victories but I am confident this form of the game suits us and we can come back and perform better."

The margin between the sides was not, perhaps, as great as the ODI score line suggests. Had Pakistan held a couple of vital catches, results could have gone the other way. But as it is, their fielding and batting require some work. Questions are also being asked about Misbah's tactics and whether a new captain should be considered for the limited-overs formats.

Pakistan will, on the whole, stick with the same group of players. Awais Zia, an uncapped left-handed batsman, could well come into the side at the top of the order, while Hammad Azam - strangely overlooked in the ODI series - could also come into the reckoning. But Misbah is keen to allow the team the chance to "do our wrongs right".

"We need to make use of every game because there aren't that many leading to the World T20. With that being in the sub-continent, we need to make use of these conditions."
Stuart Broad on the T20 series

Pakistan have won their last four T20s - though two of those games were against Zimbabwe and another against Bangladesh - and had lost seven of their previous eight before that.

England also have much to do if they are to retain the World T20 trophy they won in the Caribbean in 2010. They have won 11 of their last 14 T20s but, under the captaincy of Stuart Broad, have won one and lost one. Since the departure of Paul Collingwood, they are in something of a transition. This is the first time they will have played a three match T20 series against one other nation.

There is much to be decided. Broad confirmed that Alastair Cook was not just with the squad as cover but would be considered for selection on the same basis as everyone else. He is therefore one of four men with a claim to bat at the top of the order. Kevin Pietersen, who bounced back to form with successive centuries in the final two ODIs, is another obvious contender giving enjoyed conspicuous success since his elevation in ODIs, while Craig Kieswetter opened in the World T20 and has done so ever since. Alex Hales came into the T20 side in August and has opened in England's last four matches but is now under some pressure to retain his place.

The presence of Cook will inevitably lead to speculation that he could, in time, captain England in all three formats. But such talk is surely premature and Broad dismissed the suggestion that his own position as captain might be threatened by Cook.

"Not at all," he said. "I've got the Twenty20 job. I've been trusted in that position and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. No reassurances needed to be given. We've worked closely as three captains, as we have done for nearly a year now, and that doesn't change overnight.

"It's great to be back in charge and I'm delighted to be leading the side after the confidence we've gained from a 4-0 victory in the one-day series. We have very similar personnel within the set-up.

"It's an exciting opportunity and it's the first chance we've had to have three games on the bounce, where we can really learn and develop. And, obviously, look to win.

"We need to make use of every game because there aren't that many leading to the World T20. Obviously, with that being in the sub-continent, we need to make use of these conditions here in Dubai.

"We won't have any subcontinent Twenty20 cricket until the warm-up games for the World T20. It makes these games pretty important from a learning perspective. But we're not looking at these games just as warm-ups; we're looking to win this series. That's what we'll be focusing on."

England declared a few injury concerns. Broad enigmatically declined the name the players, though Ravi Bopara, who missed the final ODI with a sore back, batted and bowled in the nets without any obvious discomfort. Training was optional on Wednesday, with most of the side that contested the ODI on Tuesday electing for rest.

Edited by Alex Winter

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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