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ABANDONED
1st T20I (N), Leeds, May 22, 2024, Pakistan tour of England
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Match abandoned without a ball bowled

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World Cup finalists reunited as prep for 2024 edition begins

Leeds the scene for Jofra Archer, Haris Rauf comebacks - so long as the weather plays ball

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
21-May-2024

Big picture


The last time England played Pakistan in this format, nearly 90,000 people turned up to watch, with a global audience potentially in the hundreds of millions. It came at the MCG in the 2022 T20 World Cup final, and as the Pakistani tears and wild English celebrations demonstrated, what was on the line mattered.
That won't quite be the case at Headingley on Wednesday, and not only because the Yorkshire weather might put paid to the possibility of a game altogether. A lot has happened in the following year and a half, and little of it has served to bolster these sides' credentials as World Cup champions and runners-up. The two have won a combined two T20I series out of a possible nine, each boasting sizeable losing records since they played at the MCG. They were both eliminated from the following ODI World Cup at the first hurdle. England's match-winner from that warm Melbourne night isn't currently a part of the T20I setup, while Pakistan's captain was briefly dethroned before inexplicably having the crown handed back to him a few months later.
It's risky to judge a team solely on T20I results in bilateral games; even this series, after all, serves almost entirely as a warm-up to the T20 World Cup less than a fortnight away. But given their struggles in T20I cricket, both teams would benefit from a series win and are duly taking the series extremely seriously.
England haven't played a T20I all year, though they did take on upcoming World Cup co-hosts West Indies in a five-match T20I series in December. What Jos Buttler's side want to avoid is a repeat of their calamitous ODI World Cup with a similarly disjointed T20 World Cup defence. England were so keen to get their full squad together they risked the ire of the IPL by recalling them well in time, and Jofra Archer has been managed in a way to allow him to return for his first T20 game in over a year just in time for the lead-up to the World Cup.
Pakistan's frenetic administrative setup and impassioned fanbase mean they never quite have the luxury of not taking any international seriously, but with the World Cup around the corner, a bilateral T20I series could scarcely matter more. Pakistan, after all, remain the only one of 20 teams not to have announced their World Cup squad yet; they will wait as long as possible - until after the first game of this series - to make it official, ensuring they make decisions based on maximum information.
And that World Cup, ultimately, is the direction every aspect of this series will be slanted towards. That night at the MCG assures both teams they have what it takes to stand atop the mountain, and though Leeds isn't close to that peak, it may well be an important stepping stone.

Form guide


England LWWLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
Pakistan WWLWL

In the spotlight


A year since his last T20, and four since his last international game on English soil. Jofra Archer will be the unquestionable star attraction at Leeds after captain Jos Buttler confirmed he would make a much-anticipated return in the first game. After a prolonged injury nightmare, it appears England have finally managed to nurse Archer back to full fitness, and the way his team-mates talk about him, he's as formidable a prospect as he ever was. Sam Curran mentioned the value of the "fear factor" his extra pace instills in the opposition, and an overcast Headingley may well be the ideal occasion to ease him in.
Pakistan, too, have an express pace bowler returning from injury who is expected to start in this game after an extended layoff. Haris Rauf has had a tumultuous last six months, beginning with a board dispute that saw him lose his central contract, followed by a shoulder injury during the PSL, and ultimately the reinstatement of aforementioned central contract. He was part of the group that travelled to Ireland but wasn't fit enough to get a game. By all accounts, his injury has healed faster than the initial prognosis, and a pace-off between two of cricket's most fear-inducing bowlers is worth tuning in for.

Team news


England will not rush Liam Livingstone back as he recovers from a minor knee issue. Mark Wood has not played since March and will be managed through the series due to a knee niggle of his own, which is not considered serious. Buttler has confirmed that he will keep wicket.
England: 1 Jos Buttler (capt & wk), 2 Phil Salt, 3 Will Jacks, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Sam Curran, 8 Chris Jordan, 9 Jofra Archer, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Reece Topley
Having eschewed the opportunity to include Mohammad Haris in the squad, Saim Ayub's return to form cannot come soon enough with this game the last Pakistan play before the official squad announcement. Rauf is expected to return, making this potentially the first time since the Asia Cup that he has featured alongside Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah.
Pakistan: 1 Mohammad Rizwan, 2 Saim Ayub, 3 Babar Azam (capt), 4 Fakhar Zaman, 5 Azam Khan (wk), 6 Iftikhar Ahmed/Shadab Khan, 7 Imad Wasim, 8 Shaheen Afridi, 9 Haris Rauf, 10 Mohammad Amir, 11 Naseem Shah

Pitch and conditions


The biggest question mark concerns the weather. It was overcast in Leeds on Tuesday, and the forecast suggests rain through much of Wednesday.

Stats and trivia

  • England won more T20I games at the 2022 World Cup (5) than they have in the 18 months since (4).
  • Babar Azam has 46 wins as T20I captain, more than any other international captain.
  • Both captains are close to approaching personal batting milestones. Babar is 45 runs away from becoming the second player to 4000 T20I runs, while 73 more would see Buttler become the first Englishman to 3000.

Quotes


"That pride was obviously dented and it was a really disappointing competition. But life moves on: it's a chapter in the book and there's lessons you learn but we're presented with a new opportunity, a different format. We go to the West Indies and want to give a better account of ourselves."
England captain Jos Buttler wants to move on from their early exit in India
"We're looking forward to facing him. He's coming back after about a year. As a team we are excited to play against him. We've played well against him in the past and I'm sure it'll be a good contest in the coming games. We have that pace of bowlers in Haris Rauf and Shaheen, so I wouldn't say we're fearful, but we are excited."
Pakistan captain Babar Azam talks up his own fast bowlers ahead of Archer's return

Danyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @Danny61000