ISLAMABAD: A new-look Pakistan squad, with most of its senior players resting, will be eyeing redemption against Afghanistan today, Sunday, as the two sides lock horns in the second T20 clash of the three-match series at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium.
Afghanistan made history on Friday after they beat Pakistan for the first time in an international match. Inspired by a match-winning knock by Mohammad Nabi, Afghanistan defeating the green shirts by six wickets in a low-scoring contest in the first T20.
On a turning track that proved to be more conducive for bowlers than batters, Pakistan lost the plot earlier in the innings, managing to finish at an unimpressive 92/9 at the end of their 20 overs.
However, when Afghanistan came out to bat, Pakistani bowlers Ihsanullah, Imad Wasim and Naseem Shah exploited the pitch conditions well to put the Afghan batters at bay. It looked like Pakistan’s game at one point in time when Ihsanullah struck twice in his debut over, dismissing Ibrahim Zadran and Gulbadin Naib.
However, after a dismal 45-4, Afghanistan managed to pull through courtesy of a match-saving partnership between Nabi (38 runs from 38 balls) and Najibullah Zadran (17 runs from 23 balls).
For Sunday’s match, Pakistan announced they would take to the field with only one change in the playing XI.
“There is one change in the side as Mohammad Nawaz replaces Faheem Ashraf,” the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said in a statement.
Senior Pakistan cricket players such as Babar Azam, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Muhammad Rizwan, Haris Rauf, Fakhar Zaman and others are not taking part in the series. The PCB had earlier announced it was resting the players.
PCB chief Najam Sethi said the series would serve as a grooming opportunity for younger stars such as Ihsanullah, Saim Ayub, Zaman Khan, Azam Khan, Tayyab Tahir, and others who performed well in the recently concluded Pakistan Super League (PSL).
In Azam’s absence, all-rounder Shadab Khan is leading the Pakistani squad for the three-match series in the UAE.
Pakistan decided to “compensate” Afghanistan by playing against them after Australia pulled out of an ODI series against Afghanistan. Cricket Australia said it had taken the decision in protest over the Taliban government’s education and work restrictions against women.