Asia Cup 2018: Pakistan Pre-tournament Predicted XI

The Asia Cup being conducted in UAE, Pakistan's adopted home should also be an added advantage for them.

Pakistan Team
Pakistan Team. (Photo Source: Twitter)

The Pakistan cricket team has a huge task upfront in the Asia Cup. They will be up against some of the best teams from Asia in the 14th edition of the tournament. Their battle against the arch-rivals India is already stirring up tons of excitement amongst the fans. The team has won the tournament twice thus far and will be wanting to win it the third time in 2018.

With some exciting prospects in their squad, the side appears to be well-balanced and could give a tough competition to all the other teams. The team will be in action in the second game of the tournament where they will be facing Hong Kong. The Asia Cup being conducted in UAE, Pakistan’s adopted home should also be an added advantage for them. On that note, here is what could be their starting XI for the series.

Here is the likely pre-tournament XI for Pakistan:

Openers (Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq)

Fakhar Zaman has probably been the best find for Pakistan in the last one year. Since the Champions Trophy in 2017, this 28-year-old has grown leaps and bounds. The former Navy man is the fastest to 1,000 ODI runs and got there in just 18 innings. He also notched up a double century in the recently concluded series against Zimbabwe. With the terrific form that he is in, he is a sure shot option to be in the playing XI.

Imam-ul-Haq will be Fakhar’s opening partner. The former Pakistani skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq’s nephew is making some great inroads in international cricket. This flamboyant stroke-maker has scored 544 runs in 9 innings at an average of 68. Imam will be looking to continue his dominance in the Asia Cup as well. Furthermore, he is also a very good fielder which will assist his selection in the XI.

Middle Order (Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali)

Batting at No 3 is the ODI No. 2 batsman, Babar Azam. The 23-year-old adds great stability to the side and is highly consistent. He scored 184 runs in 4 innings in the series against Zimbabwe. Also, Babar gets his runs at quite a brisk pace which makes him so dangerous at this position.

Shoaib Malik will follow Babar Azam in the batting line up. He has rediscovered himself since the end of World Cup 2015 and playing some great knocks. Malik can adapt according to the situation of the game and can play aggressive or defensive cricket as required. He will be one of the most important members in the Pakistan side and Asif Ali will come into bat next after him. In the 3 international innings that he played, Ali scored 114 runs at an average of 57. His strike rate of 181 is mindblowing and will take up the role of the finisher in the side.

Wicket-keeper (Sarfraz Ahmed)

The Pakistani skipper in all three formats of the game will have an important role to play this tournament. He is street smart as a captain and likes to take the game onto the opposition. Furthermore, he doubles up as the wicket-keeper in the side and is a very safe gloveman. Sarfraz has played 90 ODIs thus far and has amassed 1,748 runs at an average of 34 and strike rate of 87. He would be eager to lead Pakistan to another triumph in this tournament after the Champions Trophy 2017.

All-rounders (Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz/Faheem Ashraf)

These two bowling all-rounders will be taking up the spin bowling responsibilities in the side. The 19-year-old Shadab was batted in just 8 innings in ODI cricket but has been highly effective. He averages 52 in the format with the bat and has picked 33 wickets in 22 games. Khan bowls at the good economy rate and keeps the pressure on the opposition batsmen.

With a leg-spinner and a left-arm orthodox spinner in the side, there will be quite some variety in the bowling attack. Also, Shoaib Malik can chip in with some off-spinners if required. Nawaz is also capable of opening the bowling when needed and has picked 13 scalps in 11 games. Depending on the conditions, it could be Faheem Ashraf also who might make it into the XI. He picked 9 wickets in 4 games in Zimbabwe and is quite deceptive with his pace.

Bowlers (Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan/Shaheen Afridi)

Mohammad Amir is one of the best Pakistani left-arm pacers in the current set up. He has got a good pace and can swing the ball both the ways. There was a lot of hype about the battle between him and Virat Kohli, which would not materialise anyways this time around. He didn’t have the best of series in Zimbabwe and picked only one wicket in three games. He would want to improve on that in the Asia Cup.

The ICC No. 3 ODI bowler, Hasan Ali will be sharing the fast bowling responsibilities with Amir. He had a decent outing in Zimbabwe and picked six wickets in three games. There is a little bit of ambiguity about the third pacer in the side. Either of Usman Khan or Shaheen Afridi will take up the role. Usman was brilliant in Zimbabwe and will be the front-runner for the position while Shaheen Afridi will be looking forward to making his ODI debut.