Pakistan are set to hand batsman Sahibzada Farhan his international debut in the T20 tri-series final against Australia in Harare on Sunday.
Speaking on the eve of the final, Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said top-order batsman Farhan is the only change in the playing eleven.
“Farhan will be making his debut tomorrow and he will open in place of Haris Sohail. Hasan Ali is in the 12-man squad,” Sarfraz said.
Sohail made 16 and nought in two outings in the T20 tri-series.
Farhan has been in fine form in white-ball cricket since March. Playing for Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League, Farhan scored a fine 44 from 33 balls opening the innings in the final in March at Karachi against Peshawar Zalmi, helping his side chase down 149 for the title.
In List A cricket, Farhan has hit 155 and 73 in his last four matches.
Pakistan regained lost ground in the T20 rankings as they returned to 131 points at the top of the table with a six-point cushion.
Pakistan had earlier slipped to 129 points – still number one – after a crushing nine-wicket defeat to Australia in the T20 tri-series in Zimbabwe. The Aussies, meanwhile had risen to second position following two big wins and were just three points behind Sarfraz Ahmed‘s team.
However, following Pakistan’s 45-run win against Australia on Thursday and the Aussies’ scratchy win over hosts Zimbabwe on Friday, Pakistan are back in a comfortable position as the No1 T20 team in the world.
India have won one and lost one T20 in England and are now placed second on 125, six points behind Pakistan. Australia are down to third on 124 points.
Batting order is a delicate balancing act. When it comes to bowling, it pretty much sorts itself out. Most teams have two or at best three very good bowlers and others who play the holding role.
The best seamers open the attack and spinners bowl in the middle overs. In T20s, captains like to experiment by opening the bowling with spinners, while sometimes captains hold back their best bowlers when a new batsman comes in due to a miscalculation. But that’s not always the case.
However almost every team nowadays struggles with the batting order. Who to open with, who to send at one down, at four, five and six. They look like mere numbers but each batting position has its own characteristic which needs a very particular skillset for the team to work like clockwork every time.
India captain Virat Kohli has made the number three position his own in limited overs cricket, especially in ODIs. In T20s, Kohli has been a lot more flexible since 2017, batting at numbers one, two, three, four and six.
Then in the first T20 against England, Kohli decided to drop himself to number four position and allow the in-form KL Rahul to bat the number three. That move worked like a dream as Rahul smashed an unbeaten century.
This has the potential of greatly reducing the pressure on Kohli to deliver every single time as the top three know they have the cushion of Kohli and MS Dhoni in the middle order and can make a big and quick impact.
The situation in Pakistan is different. They are without their best batsman – Babar Azam – at the moment which has put a spanner in their works.
That has amplified the pressure on captain Sarfraz Ahmed to add steel to the batting order. However, even with Azam in the team, Sarfraz had been batted at the number four position in T20s in 2018 to beef up the batting.
Pakistan team practice session at Old Hararian Sports Club. Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammed Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Hussain Talat & Sahibzada Farhan took part in the session. pic.twitter.com/kmGJJ4jS4g— PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) July 3, 2018
In the T20 tri-series in Zimbabwe, it was even more important for Sarfraz to bat number four. In the clash against Zimbabwe on Wednesday, world No1 Pakistan were feeling the pinch chasing 163.
It took a calm 38 from 21 balls from Sarfraz to see his side home on the final over. Batting at number four, Sarfraz is able to stop a collapse in the first place and thus avoid doing the repair job, as he had been doing for a couple of seasons across formats.
Both captains have made a move in the opposite direction in the batting line-ups lately. Kohli might continue to do it to accommodate Rahul in the T20 team and possibly use it as a ploy on ODIs as well, while Sarfraz has already embraced the idea.
For the time being, the number four position in India and Pakistan’s T20 teams are occupied by the ideal batsmen.