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September 11, 2007
As has often been the case in recent years, Pakistan's build-up for a major international assignment has been disrupted by an off-field ruckus, and not for the first time a certain Shoaib Akhtar has held centre stage. Shoaib is now cooling his heels back home, and the victim of his alleged assault, Mohammad Asif, will have to lead the way with the ball as Pakistan look to end a run of underwhelming performances at the global level that dates back to 1999.
Bat play: Few of the Scottish players are household names but some will remember Gavin Hamilton's performances at the 1999 World Cup. The squad also has Dougie Brown, whose county career as an allrounder began 15 years ago. Neil McCallum and Ryan Watson, the captain, are others to watch for.
For Pakistan, this is a step into the unknown, the first time in a decade that they have gone into a competition of this magnitude without either Inzamam-ul-Haq or Mohammad Yousuf. Shahid Afridi and Imran Nazir will lead the bludgeon brigade but just as vital will be the contributions from the two nudgers and accumulators in the middle order, Shoaib Malik and Younis Khan.
Wrecking ball: John Blain, who once tried his luck with Falkirk in Scottish football, and Craig Wright, the former captain, will be key with the ball, as will a young off-break bowler, Majid Haq, with roots in Pakistan.
With Shoaib gone, Asif and Umar Gul will most likely be Pakistan's new-ball pairing, with Iftikhar Anjum and Yasir Arafat providing the back-up. Malik, Afridi and Abdur Rehman are the spin options, and there could also be a place for the all-round abilities of Mohammad Hafeez.
Keep your eyes on: Afridi should be a star in this format, as will Nazir. Pakistan also boast one of the strongest bowling line-ups in the competition, and this gentle opener will set them up perfectly for a tilt against India on Friday.
Shop talk: "We have got a number of batsmen who can score quickly. That's a great strength that we have. Someone like Afridi can get a 50 off 15 balls. He can hit the best bowling attack all over. We have a very strong battling line-up. They all play attacking cricket. If Pakistan play to their potential, they can be an extremely dangerous side." - Geoff Lawson, the Pakistan coach, on his team's chances.
Pitching it right: Bright sunshine is predicted for Tuesday, and Pakistan's bowlers will doubtless enjoy the pace and bounce on offer at Kingsmead. The batting looks less formidable, but it's unlikely that Scotland possess the arsenal to ask too many questions.
Teams Pakistan (likely): Imran Nazir, Salman Butt, Younis Khan, Kamran Akmal (wk), Shoaib Malik (capt), Shahid Afridi, Misbah ul Haq, Yasir Arafat, Iftikhar Anjum, Mohammad Asif, Umer Gul
Scotland (from): Ryan Watson (capt), Fraser Watts, Dougie Brown, John Blain, Gavin Hamilton, Navdeep Poonia, Gregor Maiden, Neil McCallum, Qasim Sheikh, Colin Smith (wk), Craig Wright, Dewald Nel, Gordon Drummond, Ross Lyons, Majid Haq
Dileep Premachandran is associate editor of CricinfoFeeds: Dileep Premachandran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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