With the series poised 1-1, Pakistan and the World XI face off in a potentially gripping contest for the Independence Cup at Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium on Friday.
World XI skipper Faf du Plessis won the toss and put Pakistan in to bat first, as was the case in the first two matches of the series.
After the Sarfraz Ahmed-led Pakistan won the first Twenty20 international (T20I) match by 20 runs on Tuesday, the World XI came back strong to comfortably grab the second game by seven wickets on Wednesday.
Both matches of the much-awaited series — which is being hailed as a stepping stone towards the revival of top-level international cricket in Pakistan after a gap of eight years — have remained high-scoring affairs, and fans can surely expect another run-loaded encounter today under the lights.
Right-handed Babar Azam, Pakistan’s top-order batsman, has led the run-scoring chart so far aggregating 131 that includes a match-winning 86 in the series opener. South Africa’s prolific opener Hashim Amla (98 runs) is second in the list.
From Pakistan, opener Ahmed Shehzad (82 runs) and seasoned all-rounder Shoaib Malik (77) have also scored runs in the two matches.
Though most of the World XI batsmen — with the exception of Amla — have still struggled for big knocks, Sri Lankan all-rounder Thisara Perera’s blazing 19-ball 47 in the second game transformed the tempo of the series which is now on knife’s edge.
Du Plessis (49), David Miller (9) and Bangladesh’s fluent opening batsman Tamim Iqbal (41), who were found wanting in the first two games, will be expected to step up today in the all-important series decider.
The World XI bowlers will also need to brush up if they want to leave the country as winners.
The likes of Morne Morkel, Samuel Badree and Imran Tahir with support bowlers like Paul Collingwood, Perera and Ben Cutting can restrict the free-scoring Pakistanis who smashed 197-5 and 174-6 in the first two games on batsman-friendly wickets.
Pakistan, on the other hand, will be hoping their batting line-up — comprising dashing-but-inexperienced opener Fakhar Zaman, his partner Shehzad, veteran Shoaib Malik, in-form Babar and Sarfraz — fires on all cylinders when it really matters.
As far as bowling is concerned, the home side are not immune to thrashing as was evident in the second game. For the home side, Sohail Khan has been their main wicket-taker so far claiming three wickets for 72 in the series.
All-rounder Imad Wasim’s show with the leather has been quite ordinary in the series. Sarfraz tested the spinner as attacking bowler in both the matches but the left-armer failed to deliver with no wickets to his credit. With the bat he has contributed 30 runs.