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Pakistan face World XI in third and final T20 today

LAHORE: Pakistan will take on World XI in the third and last Twenty20 International at picturesque Gaddafi Stadium here on Friday (today). Pakistan won the first game by 20 runs while the second belonged to World XI who thrashed the hosts by seven wickets. Pakistan’s biggest concern, following their failure to defend 174 on Wednesday, is regarding the fitness of Hasan Ali. Coach Mickey Arthur expressed hope he would be fit to take the field on Friday but said they’d assess him on the morning of the game. Usman Shinwari, who played in Hasan’s place in the second T20I, wasn’t an option captain Sarfraz Ahmed looked too comfortable using; he bowled just one over in the innings. As for World XI, the bowling looks much stronger with the inclusion of Samuel Badree and Morne Morkel’s first three overs on Wednesday, in which he conceded just seven runs, means he could go into the final game with plenty of confidence. The visitors have the upper hand in the power hitting department, and if Thisara, Darren Sammy and David Miller all click, Pakistan would be in danger of having the game wrenched away from them.

Recently appointed Pakistan’s all-format captain, Sarfraz Ahmed has so far had a quiet tour, scoring 4 in the first T20I, before being dismissed for a golden duck on Wednesday. In the field, his decisions came in for scrutiny, following the last-over loss, with some suggestions that the bowlers – Shinwari in particular – weren’t utilised to the best of their ability. There is nothing in the slightest that would indicate a sustained dip in form or judiciousness. But as the man leading the Pakistan side in such a feel-good series, nothing would cap the tour off better – at least for Pakistan fans – than the wicketkeeper-batsman making a winning contribution in the decider.

Tamim Iqbal has offered tasters of what he is capable of in both games, cameos of 18 and 23 whetting the crowd’s appetite, but is so far yet to follow up with a main course. It’s not like he can’t score big runs in the format; he has a hundred and a pair of 80s, and the left-hander in his groove is perhaps the epitome of a subcontinental player’s talent being fully expressed. His opening partner Hashim Amla was able to kick on after a start in the second game, eventually making a match-winning contribution. If Tamim follows his lead on Friday, the results could be far more destructive.

Pakistan’s top six are fairly settled, and any tinkering that might occur is likely to happen lower down. Arthur stressed the importance of giving new players opportunities, so Faheem Ashraf, who faced just one ball and bowled just one over, could come back in. Hasan Ali, if fit, will also replace Usman Shinwari. Very popular in Pakistan, Sammy’s omission from the playing XI in the second T20I came as a surprise, and he might start again. George Bailey is the only World-XI player yet to get a game and could find himself thrown in for the decider. The pitch will play no different to the first two games, and another high-scoring contest is on the cards. The second game was slightly disrupted by windy conditions, but nothing of the sort is expected for the finale. Shoaib Malik’s 39 during the second match made him Pakistan’s highest T20I run-getter, taking his tally to 1702. He overtook Umar Akmal, who now occupies second place with 1690.

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