Everything going according to plan for T20 kings Pakistan but opening conundrum remains

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Pakistan are struggling to find the perfect foil to Fakhar Zaman.

Pakistan sealed their highest successful T20I run-chase in their six-wicket win over Australia in the tri-series final at Harare on Sunday. Fakhar Zaman was the star of the show for the men in green with his 46-ball 91 ensuring Pakistan’s won despite his side losing two wickets in the first over of the chase.

The left-handed opening batsman has been in rich vein of form in the entire tri-series with his knock on Sunday coming after innings of 61, 47 and 73. However, while Fakhar has been in outstanding touch, the other opening slot remains a big worry for the Pakistan team management.

Fakhar went through three different opening partners in the tri-series itself. The scores by his partners in the series read 7, 0, 16, 0 and 0.

While Pakistan strengthened their hold on the No1 T20I ranking after their ninth consecutive series win and 24th victory in 28 matches, finding an able partner for Fakhar is turning out to be quite the headache.

Here, we analyse the options at Sarfraz Ahmed’s disposal.

MOHAMMAD HAFEEZ

The veteran all-rounder returned to Pakistan’s limited-overs setup after his bowling action was cleared by the ICC. Although he did pick up two wickets against Zimbabwe in his first match on return, Hafeez disappointed with the bat after being dismissed for just seven runs.

His second outing did not bring about any change in fortunes with the right-hander being dismissed for a duck by Australia’s Billy Stanlake. That was it for the 37-year-old who did not feature again in the rest of the tournament.

At his age, Hafeez is hardly going to be a long-term solution for Pakistan despite his record and they would be better served by looking elsewhere.

Hafeez is not long-term option for Pakistan.

Hafeez is no long-term option for Pakistan.

HARIS SOHAIL

Following Hafeez’s consecutive failures, it was Haris Sohail’s turn to partner Fakhar at the top. The 29-year-old has never been a regular feature in Pakistan’s T20 outfit and scores of 16 and 0 in the tri-series do not inspire much confidence going forward.

He was given two chances in Pakistan’s tour of New Zealand earlier this year and failed to stamp his authority.

The left-hander does not seem a natural fit in the format and it is doubtful that Pakistan will turn to him to open the innings after his Zimbabwe excursion.

Sohail has hardly set T20 cricket alight.

Sohail has hardly set T20 cricket alight.

SAHIBZADA FARHAN

The youngster was handed his international debut in the T20 series final, which means he is supremely talented or that the management was desperate after the flop shows by Hafeez and Sohail.

The 22-year-old Farhan got a harsh introduction to international cricket after he was stumped for a golden duck off the bowling of Glenn Maxwell.

The youngster had impressed in Islamabad United’s title triumph in the last edition of the Pakistan Super League where he scored a match-winning 44 in the final.

Despite his failure on debut, Farhan could be molded into a long-term option for Pakistan if he is backed the same way as Hussain Talat and Asif Ali have been so far after their performances in the PSL.

Farhan needs time to be groomed into the role.

Farhan needs time to be groomed into the role.

AZHAR ALI

Long been branded as a ‘Test specialist’, Azhar Ali has not played a single T20I for Pakistan in his career so far. His strike-rate in ODI cricket is below 75 but that does not mean Azhar is not an option.

The 33-year-old complemented Fakhar’s attacking approach in Pakistan’s Champions Trophy triumph in England. His workman like approach to batting worked wonders with Fakhar taking on the bowlers at the other end.

With Fakhar being in outstanding knick, it would not be the most outlandish of moves to partner him with Azhar in the format.

Azhar has shown that he perform an admirable job previously.

Azhar has shown that he can get the job done.

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England v India LIVE: Rohit Sharma slams third T20I ton as India thump England to clinch series

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Rohit Sharma struck a 28-ball half century.

England and India lock horns in the T20 series decider at Bristol on Sunday. The three-match series is finely poised at 1-1 after the visitors stormed to an eight-wicket win in the opener before the hosts came roaring back with a five-wicket victory in Cardiff.

India skipper Virat Kohli won the toss and elected to bowl first. England openers Jos Buttler and Jason Roy gave the hosts a blistering start and brought up a 50-run stand in just 27 balls as Chahar and Umesh Yadav copped some early punishment. Roy brought up his half-century in just 23 balls before Buttler was dismissed by Kaul. The pair had added 94 runs for the first wicket inside just eight overs. Roy ultimately became Chahar’s maiden international dismissal after being caught behind for a 31-ball 67.

Hardik Pandya then removed Morgan and Alex Hales in the 14th over but England remain well placed to notch up a big total. Pandya picked up two wickets more in his next over as England lost wickets in heaps at the death in quick pursuit of runs. The hosts ultimately posted 198-9 in their 20 overs.

In reply, India lost Shikhar Dhawan cheaply at the start of the third over bu Rohit Sharma has taken charge of the innings with KL Rahul giving him able company. Rahul ultimately perished to a spectacular catch by Chris Jordan in the deep as India lost their second wicket inside the powerplay. Rohit went past 2, 000 runs in T20I cricket on his way to a 28-ball fifty which included six boundaries and three sixes. Kohli played an important innings of 43 but Rohit stole the show by slamming his third T20I hundred as he led India to a thumping seven-wicket win.

Do not miss any of the action from the decider at Bristol by following the link below.

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Fakhar Zaman frustrates Australia again and other takeaways from Pakistan's T20 Tri-Series final win

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Leading the chase: Fakhar Zaman

There was more T20 success for Pakistan when they beat Australia in a thrilling Tri-Series final in Harare on Sunday.

Set a target of 184 following D’Arcy Short’s 76, Pakistan had it all to do especially when they lost two batsmen in the first two overs.

But, Sarfraz Ahmed’s side showed why they are the world’s best outfit in this format when they sealed their highest successful chase to win the game by six wickets and four balls to spare. It was Pakistan’s ninth consecutive T20 series victory.

Here are the takeaways from the game in Zimbabwe.

Short and Finch nearly make Pakistan pay with dropped catches

Having amassed scores of 68 and 172 in the first two games of the Tri-Series, Finch suffered a dip in form going into the match having scored 16 and 3. It could have been another brief stay at the crease for the opener had he not been dropped by Shoaib Malik on his first delivery.

But instead, the 31-year-old gradually found his feet before later hitting a boundary and a six in two consecutive deliveries off Shaheen Afridi. He gave Shadab Khan the same treatment with two more maximums before the teenage leg-spinner got his man for 47.

Sarfraz Ahmed’s men only had themselves to blame as to why Short reached 76.

He brought up his half-century with a maximum and ultimately, Shadab’s drop at backward point didn’t prove too costly in the end.

Coming up Short: D'Arcy scored 76 for Australia

Coming up Short: D’Arcy scored 76 for Australia

Shadab Khan’s brilliant catch

After dropping Short earlier on in the game, Shadab made up for his error in some style when he took one of the best catches in international cricket. Alex Carey struck the ball as cleanly as he could and looked certain to score a boundary but he and the rest of the cricketing world were scratching their heads and left in awe when Shadab pulled off a fantastic low one-handed catch.

Fakhar Zaman frustrates Australia as Pakistan show why they’re No.1

With Pakistan you just never know what type of performance you will see from them. After Sahibzada Farhan and Hussain Talat were removed by Glenn Maxwell inside the first two overs, Mickey Arthur’s side were staring at a defeat. But you can never write them off and Sunday’s game was another example.

Just three days after hitting 73 against the Australians, Fakhar Zaman was at it again as he went even bigger to register his highest T20I score of 91. The 28-year-old saw both his partners Farhan and Talat dismissed but he remained composed and built a partnership with Sarfraz and then Shoaib Malik which gave him the chance to accelerate his innings.

With Pakistan needing 89 from 54, Zaman raised his game, smashing 14 runs in three balls as well as back-to-back boundaries off Stonis. He was unable to reach the triple figures but Malik’s 43no and Asif Ali’s 11no ensured his efforts did not go to waste and proved once again why they are top of the world rankings.

Man in form: Fakhar Zaman

Man in form: Fakhar Zaman.

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