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Will Pakistan Produce A Surprise Again In England?

Pakistan surprised the world by winning the ICC Champions Trophy on their last visit to England for a major tournament and will be looking for a repeat performance in the 2019 World Cup.

The Green Army looked dead and buried in the group stages, but managed to find their form to emerge to reach the semi-finals. England were expected to ease past Sarfaraz Ahmed’s men, but Pakistan capitalised on advantageous conditions to bowl the host nation out cheaply before knocking off the runs to secure a berth in the final.

India posed a firm test in the final and they were the favourites to lift the crown. However, Fakhar Zaman scored a brilliant century before Mohammad Amir and Hasan Ali put on a show with the ball  to secure the win by 180 runs.

Pakistan are one of the most inconsistent teams in the world and have been hammered by England and Australia recently, but major tournaments are always unpredictable and no team epitomises that more than the Green Army.

Squad

Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain), Asif Ali, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Wahab Riaz.

Ahmed must galvanise his team

Overview

Pakistan enter the tournament without a great deal of form in the ODI format. They were trounced by England in their series, suffering a 4-0 defeat at the hands of the host nation. Ahmed’s men were hammered by Australia on home soil, being whitewashed by the Baggy Greens.

Matters got worse in their opening warm-up match when Afghanistan bested them, with the Green Army losing by a three-wicket margin. Pakistan have lost their last 10 matches on the bounce, although the form book has hardly been a sound judgement of their prowess at major tournaments. They have a solid record at the World Cup, winning the competition in 1992 with a triumph over England.

Since then they have been competitive, losing to Australia in the final in 1999 and reaching the semis in 2011. Last time out in the World Cup they were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Australia. Their run in the Champions Trophy came out of nowhere.

It’s a fair warning to the rest of the teams in the competition that the Green Army have quality. Whether it’s Zaman and Babar Azam in their batting ranks or Hasan Ali and Amir in their bowling unit – Pakistan are a threat.

Key Players

Babar Azam – The 24-year-old is the future of Pakistani cricket. He has come to the fore for his team in the 50-over format over the last year, putting forward several dazzling displays with bat. Azam averages over 50 in his 64 matches, scoring nine centuries and 12 fifties in the process. Once he finds his form at the crease, he’s a very difficult man to dislodge, scoring plenty of runs in the process. The 24-year-old proved that he can handle English conditions, notching a century and two fifties against England in the ODI series earlier in the month.

He has the ability to drop anchor at number three in the order, although he also has a lot of shots in his locker to cut loose. Pakistan need him to maintain his recent run of fine performances into the tournament. It will be a test of his character to thrive at the highest level. Azam is slowly establishing a reputation as one of the world’s leading batsmen in the one-day arena. Take him to continue to add to his status by leading the run column for his team at +200   with Bet365.

Azam has been in great form

Hasan Ali – Ali was the driving force behind Pakistan’s triumph in the Champions Trophy. No player more than the 24-year-old seized the initiative in the tournament. He bowled brilliantly in the final two matches of the tournament, rocking England and India with his tight lines and variations.

Ali was helped somewhat by the pitches in the summer that had started to deteriorate. However, he still had to perform and he did so flawlessly, claiming six of his 13 wickets against the best two sides in the world. Ali led the wicket column in the Champions Trophy and he will have designs on matching his display at the World Cup.

England did target Ali during their ODI series earlier in the month and it will be up to the right-arm seamer to adapt. The 24-year-old has the all the attributes to fire again on the world stage. Confidence could be an issue given his recent struggles. However, if he rediscovers his top form then Pakistan could be in business. A lot hinges on Ali’s performances and he could be the man to lead the wicket column for his team once again. Back him to be Pakistan’s leading wicket taker at odds of +275   with Bet365.

Prospects

Pakistan are an enigma as they are more than capable of mounting a charge for the crown. However, their recent form suggests that they’re not going to be able to emerge from the group stage. They have lost nine ODI matches in a row and their warm-up match against Afghanistan.

Ahmed’s men are struggling to click, while the standard of their fielding was abject in their defeats to England. There is quality in their side at the top of the order as Zaman scored a brilliant century against the Three Lions, while Azam is in outstanding form. They cannot do it alone and will need support from the rest of the ranks, although Ahmed did notch 97 earlier in the month in his side’s defeat at Headingley.

There’s experience in the side as well, but they do not have the dynamic threat of the other sides in the competition. Amir and Ali could become a threatening combination with the ball.

If they’re on form and Shadab Khan provides a wicket-taking option in the middle overs then there could be an opportunity for a surge into the last four. It’s difficult to see them competing against the elite teams in the tournament therefore take them to be eliminated in the group stage at odds of -250   with Bet365.

Babar Azam
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cricket world cup
Hasan Ali
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