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Morgan urges England’s fringe players to seize chance in Pakistan T20s

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MANCHESTER: England captain Eoin Morgan has urged his players to seize their chance against a dangerous Babar Azam-led Pakistan side in the three-match Twenty20 International series that provides an early audition for next years World Cup.

The teams were due to meet at Old Trafford on Friday night with England much changed from what would be considered their first-choice squad as players who featured in the recent Test series against Pakistan are rested.

Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood are all missing, while Jason Roy is absent through injury, handing opportunities to the likes of Tom Banton, Dawid Malan and Lewis Gregory.

“It gives guys the chance to stake their claim to be in that final 15-man squad for the World Cup next year,” Morgan told reporters on Thursday. “Given the circumstances surrounding Covid-19 and the restrictions we have selection-wise, this is an opportunity for guys who would potentially sit outside that 15 to try and present their best case for the upcoming winter tours and the World Cup.

“Opportunities like this don’t come around all that often when we have our squad at full strength.”

Morgan knows that with the likelihood of a crammed calendar across all formats in 2021, opportunities to field what he would consider England’s best Twenty20 lineup on a regular basis will be slim ahead of the October-November World Cup in India.

“One of the challenges between now and then is going to be getting our strongest team on the park as often as we can to define their roles,” he said.

Pakistan will present an excellent challenge for England, who have not played in the format since a 2-1 away series win over South Africa in February.

“Pakistan are a very dangerous T20 team and you forget the depth that they have across domestic cricket,” Morgan warned. “For us they are always a difficult side to play against because they always have all bases covered.”

Morgan and Babar were once team-mates in the Pakistan Super League, and England’s 50-over World Cup winning captain was in no doubt of Babar’s talent.

“He’s a fantastic player, I played with him at Karachi Kings a couple of years ago,” said Morgan, who averages nearly 31 from 89 Twenty20 internationals, with a highest score of 91 from 41 balls against New Zealand in 2019. “He’s a guy very early in his cricketing career but he has achieved quite a lot doing the simple things extremely well. “

Roy, meanwhile, has been sidelined for the entire Pakistan series after sustaining a left side strain, team management announced. The Surrey right-hander suffered the injury during the team’s preparation.

Roy will remain with the squad and commence his rehabilitation programme with a view to featuring in next month’s white-ball series against Australia, a team statement said.

Morgan said: “Unfortunately Jason tweaked his side three days ago now and will be ruled out for the three games in order to give him time to prepare for both series against Australia.

“At the moment we don’t anticipate it being anything serious but we want to give him every chance to be fit for Australia, both series, the T20s and 50-over,” Morgan added. “We will see how he progresses over the next three or four days and be able to report back then.”

Pakistan return to the scene of the first Test of their tour, where they admittedly let the game slip, and will look to make amends. Till very recently, Pakistan were in flying form in the shortest format but the fortunes in their last 10 outings have been very different. Ranked fourth and up against one of the best white-ball teams in the recent years in England, Babar and co will have their task cut out.

The experience of Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez along with the return of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz augurs well for the visitors, who were often found wanting in terms of experience in the first Test at Manchester.

There is a good chance that Test man-of-the-series Mohammad Rizwan — if preferred over former Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed — and young tearaway Naseem Shah also feature at some point. Only Babar, Shadab Khan and Shaheen Shah Afridi are the assured of their spots in the playing.

The remaining two matches will be played on Sunday at 6:15pm (PST) and Tuesday at 10:00pm.

Teams (from):

ENGLAND: Eoin Morgan (captain), Jonny Bairstow, Tom Banton, James Vince, Dawid Malan, Sam Billings, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Lewis Gregory, Chris Jordan, Saqib Mahmood, Adil Rashid, David Willey, Liam Livingstone, Pat Brown, Reece Topley.

PAKISTAN: Babar Azam (captain), Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Amir, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Wahab Riaz.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2020

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