Pakistan’s middle-order conundrum solved?

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The dilemma which is currently faced by the Pakistan team is to fit in both Muhammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in the middle order. Both players have a good record in UAE while playing at number 4.

The green team have a settled opening pair of Babar Azam and Muhammad Rizwan who have been performing really well since the pair has started opening the innings for the team. Young Haider Ali, whose blistering form forced the selectors to tweak the squad and include the explosive batsman in the World Cup squad would most probably be batting at the all-important number 3.

Pakistan’s veteran middle-order duo Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik will be determined to prove their worth in the UAE conditions. Both the players have played the most T20 matches in the UAE; Shoaib Malik has played 72 matches so far and Hafeez has played 67 matches. Both players have been key members of Pakistan’s T20 squad as Pakistan have played their home matches in the UAE since 2009 and both have contributed to Pakistan’s success in the UAE. The Pakistani team management will have difficulty in including Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in the national team as batsmen like Fakhr Zaman, Haider Ali, Muhammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed, and Asif Ali will have to compete for a place in the middle order. One of Fakhar and Haider will be used in the top order, while the fourth, fifth and sixth positions in the batting line-up are still vacant. It will be interesting to see the batting position of Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in the final XI. Muhammad Hafeez has so far scored 1286 runs in 65 innings in the UAE with an average of 22.17 and a strike rate of 113, including 5 half-centuries. Shoaib Malik has scored 1551 runs in 67 innings at the UAE grounds with an average of 29.26 and a strike rate of 122.31, including 7 half-centuries.

As an opener in the UAE, Muhammad Hafeez scored 392 runs in 25 innings with an average of 15.68. Batting at the one down position he scored 397 runs in 20 innings at an average of 23.35 and a strike rate of 115.07. Hafeez’s record at the fourth position was the best where he scored 439 runs in 16 innings with an average of 31.35 and a strike rate of 114.32. He scored 53 runs at an average of 26.50 in three matches at 5th position. He played only one inning at 7th position in which he remained unbeaten with five runs. On the other hand, Shoaib Malik scored 72 runs at an average of 36 in the second position in UAE. He scored 85 runs at an average of 21.25 in the third position. He finished fourth with 40 runs in 40 innings at an average of 31.25 and a strike rate of 126.10. He finished 5th with 323 runs in 16 innings at an average of 26.91 and a strike rate of 111.76. Both players have almost identical records in the UAE.

Crunch hitter Asif Ali will be the best fit for the no.6 spot where he can come and hit the ball out of the park as much as he could. Imad Waseem and Shadab Khan can be the two spinners and late middle-order batsman as both the athletes have shown that they can play a good hand in the closing moments of the game. The spinners can come in handy with the ball considering the playing conditions in the UAE. The pace bowling department could be spearheaded by Shaheen Shah Afridi with Hassan Ali and Haris Rauf flanking the young fast bowler.

Earlier, Babar Azam was all praises for the experienced Hassan Ali as he has got experience of playing in the ICC Champions Trophy and helping Pakistan in winning it.

Probable lineup: Babar Azam, Muhammad Rizwan, Haider Ali, Muhammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Hassan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf.