Pakistan v World XI: Third T20 International Preview

Batsman faces bowler in front of packed cordon

Jonhenry Wilson takes a look at the third and final T20 between Pakistan and the World XI to be played on Friday 15 September in Lahore. 

The tourists' tight victory in the second fixture has squared a series that otherwise threatened to yield a deadrubber for the third and final T20I at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore.

An intriguing decider is fitting for an historical three-match affair that has inspired the International Cricket Council and Pakistan Cricket Board to get other teams touring the country again, soon.

Pakistan v World XI | Friday, 15 September | Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore | 16:00

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To Win Match
Pakistan 9/10| Tie 35/1 | World XI 9/10

Pakistan, surprisingly, changed a winning XI for Wednesday's second match - and effectively paid the price. Mohammad Nawaz and Usman Khan's presence ahead of Faheem Ashraf and Hasan Ali negatively affected the balance. Khan's selection was particularly peculiar - he bowled just one over and was due to bat well down the order. One surmises the hosts will, more or less, revert to their first T20I XI for the third.

Eager to bounce back from a first ever T20I defeat on home soil, the Pakistanis know full well more than just Babar Azam and Ahmed Shehzad have to contribute significantly. The pair's collective form is entirely appreciated, but the rest of the specialist batsman must afford solid support. Now Pakistan's leading run-scorer in the shortest format of international cricket, Shoaib Malik's performance will be key.

Unlike the brief turnaround time between fixtures one and two, both teams have a full extra day to prepare for Friday's finale. The hosts, buoyed by home support, will be eager to repay those who forked out premium fees for tickets the PCB have admitted were incorrectly overpriced. Pakistan, indeed, will go into the game with a patriotic sense of duty to make up for the board's blunder.

While they're increasingly closer to mastering the fitness levels required in the heat and humidity of Lahore, Pakistan have to improve on their fielding and catching. Malik's grassed chance at a crucial juncture in the second match attested to this. Captain Sarfraz Ahmed, too, acknowledged as much.

World XI
The need for one batsman to stick around for the bulk of the innings and the rest to bat around him was severely lacking for the visitors in the series opener. Hashim Amla soon remedied that 24 hours later. The South African's cool, calm and collection in the face of some taxing pressure spoke volumes of his influence.

While the runs he scored were obviously of numeric importance, the way he shepherded Thisara Perera through the challenging pursuit epitomised the intangible significance. His calmness effectively triggered Perera to go big, quickly, when it mattered most. Fans and, indeed, and the current team-mates of the Proteas stalwart, should anticipate the same again.

Perera's blitz was outstanding on a pitch that again proved slow, ensuring the bulk of the sixes were forced. Wednesday saw the Sri Lankan entirely deliberate about getting under the ball, while West Indian Darren Sammy's purposeful elevation of shots that just as easily could have been struck along the ground showed on Tuesday. The boundaries are relatively short at the Gaddafi Stadium, but the sluggish deck will need someone to follow in Perera and Sammy's lofty footsteps on Friday.

Bowling-wise, the World XI can again look forward to Ben Cutting's clever use of varied lengths - and Morne Morkel's additional carry and bounce. The retention of Samuel Badree, meanwhile, should continue to inspire Imran Tahir to offer more flight, if he is allowed to bowl in tandem with his fellow wrist spinner.

Verdict: World XI 9/10
One senses the visitors turned a corner on Wednesday - and will have the momentum required to finish the job 48 hours later. This won't be an ideal result for a team hosting its first international cricket against anyone else other than Zimbabwe since 2009, but it's a probability more than a possibility.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for Hollywoodbets

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