Pakistan are the No.1 T20I team in the world, having won 17 of their last 20 games in this format. One week less than a year ago, Sarfraz Ahmed’s men clinched the Champions Trophy at The Oval. When the calendar showed Pakistan would play two T20Is against Scotland at
the tail end of their UK tour this year, it promised to be the highlight of Scotland’s summer.
But as Pakistan touch down in Edinburgh, it isn’t them everyone is buzzing about. Undoubtedly, these are huge games for Scotland. They only have four games beyond these two slotted for the rest of the year: two each against Ireland and Netherlands. But this series begins 48 hours on from the biggest day in Scotland cricket history, where they took on England, the No.1 ODI side, and smashed 371, sneaking a six-run win.
Pakistan, for their part, must be wary of the buoyant home side. Kyle Coetzer’s men have shown how little they fear playing against a top-ranked side and, as such, the ranking will play little part in how the match pans out. So far, Pakistan’s tour diary shows them limping to a
shaky win in Malahide, a demolition of England at Lord’s, and a complete role reversal against the same side in Leeds. That makes these two games particularly important for how this tour will be remembered. Win both games, and Pakistan could claim to have come away with steady – albeit unconvincing – consolidation. Any other scenario, and this tour falls under the “disappointing” category.
Scotland LWWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
It doesn’t get said nearly as often as it should, so it’s worth reiterating that Calum MacLeod is one of the best batsman in the world against spin. His ability to sweep high-quality legspin bowling only properly came to prominence three months ago, when he dismantled Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan in an ODI chase in Zimbabwe en route an unbeaten 157 that helped his side to a famous win in the World Cup Qualifiers. In Scotland’s win over England on Sunday, he was equally comfortable against Adil Rashid, who conceded 72 in his 10 overs. This time MacLeod registered an undefeated 140 off 94 balls. His tussle with Shadab Khan promises to be one of the most intriguing match-ups this series.
There were questions over Sarfraz Ahmed‘s form, both with the bat and the gloves, before this tour began, but if they were posed in guilty, conspiratorial whispers then, they are starting to turn into bare-faced challenges now. In an article about Sarfraz just before this tour, Osman Samiuddin wrote that his batting was a worry, even if it hadn’t “fallen off a cliff”. With 88 runs from eight innings on this tour, it might not be hyperbole to suggest that, by now, it has. He will be anxious to leave the UK having salvaged some of those stats.
Craig Wallace has replaced Preston Mommsen in the T20I squad and offers dynamic strokeplay, but Dylan Budge may get his T20I debut after his ODI debut against England. Seamer Chris Sole had a rough outing against England with figures of 0 for 72 and may make way for Stuart Whittingham, who has played four ODIs but is waiting for a maiden T20I cap.
Scotland (probable): 1 Kyle Coetzer (capt), 2 Matthew Cross (wk), 3 Calum MacLeod, 4 Richard Berrington, 5 George Munsey, 6 Craig Wallace/Dylan Budge, 7 Michael Leask, 8 Safyaan Sharif, 9 Mark Watt, 10 Alasdair Evans, 11 Stuart Whittingham
Mohammad Amir is doubtful for the series with a shoulder injury that appeared to be bothering him during the Headingley Test. Sarfraz said Amir was “fine and fit” to play, but stopped short of asserting that he would be in the starting XI. Besides that, there are no injury concerns for Pakistan.
Pakistan (probable): 1 Fakhar Zaman, 2 Hussain Talat, 3 Asif Ali, 4 Shoaib Malik, 5 Sarfraz Ahmed (capt & wk), 6 Mohammad Nawaz 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Faheem Ashraf, 9 Mohammad Amir/Shaheen Afridi, 10 Hasan Ali, 11 Usman Khan
Pitch and conditions
The boundaries have been pulled in, and the pitch is expected to heavily favour batsmen.
Pakistan were forced to abort their training session early on Monday due to rain and some rain is expected on match day, but not enough to pose a threat to a full contest.
Stats and trivia
- This is Scotland’s first T20I since January 2017 in Dubai, where they lost to Ireland by 98 runs
- The first of Pakistan’s last 20 T20Is, of which they have won 17, was Babar Azam’s maiden game. He had been a part of every single game in the format for Pakistan since, but misses this series with injury
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
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