After 17 years, England are back in Pakistan and will begin their seven-match T20 series at the National Stadium in Karachi later today.
This will be the first leg of a long-awaited and historic return to the country, which is hugely exciting and should bring some phenomenal cricket.
With the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia set to get underway next month, the series should provide both the tourists and their hosts with vital preparation with both hoping to get their hands on the trophy in November.
England are set to return to Pakistan for a three-match Test series after the World Cup but our focus, for the time being, is on the T20s…
The big news ahead of today’s series opener is the return of Alex Hales, who has been recalled after three years as a replacement for the injured Jonny Bairstow.
With Jason Roy not included in the squad, Ben Stokes rested and Buttler recovering from, there are going to be opportunities for other batters to prove themselves.
The World Cup squad has already been selected but the Pakistan series should give the players that haven’t made the cut for Australia the chance to force themselves into Matthew Mott’s thinking moving forward.
Five uncapped players have been included in the squad for the seven-match series – Kent batter Jordan Cox, Middlesex seamer Tom Helm, Surrey hitter Will Jacks, Warwickshire quick Olly Stone, and Nottinghamshire pacer Luke Wood.
On top of some of England’s recent white-ball regulars, the likes of Sam Curran, Dawid Malan, and Reece Topley, there is also the return of Chris Woakes and Mark Wood – though they’re not expected to be ready until the latter part of the series.
Neither is Buttler, with Moeen Ali set to captain the tourists until the skipper returns.
Full squad: Jos Buttler (c), Moeen Ali , Harry Brook, Jordan Cox, Sam Curran, Liam Dawson, Ben Duckett, Richard Gleeson, Alex Hales, Tom Helm, Will Jacks, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Phil Salt, Olly Stone, Reece Topley, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, and Luke Wood.
Though the Asia Cup may have ended in disappointment for Pakistan, who were beaten in the final by Sri Lanka, they’re considered by many to be among the top T20 sides in the world and should be challenging in the World Cup later this autumn.
Mohammed Rizwan is sitting out the start of the series and Fakhar Zaman is injured but the hosts still boast a dangerous batting lineup, including captain Babar Azam and a number of players looking to fight their way into contention for the tournament – such as Shan Masood and Mohammad Haris.
They’ll be without star quick Shaheen Shah Afridi, though, as he continues to recover from a knee injury but in Naseem Shah, who England fans should recognise from his exploits during the home Test series in 2020, they have another fearsome pace bowler.
Still just 19, Naseem Shah has started to establish himself in the shortest format and will be keen to showcase his qualities against our explosive batting lineup.
Full squad: Babar Azam (c), Shadab Khan, Aamir Jamal, Abrar Ahmed, Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Junior, Naseem Shah, Shahnawaz Dahani, Shan Masood and Usman Qadir.
1st IT20: Pakistan v England – 20th September @ National Stadium, Karachi
2nd IT20: Pakistan v England – 22nd September @ National Stadium, Karachi
3rd IT20: Pakistan v England – 23rd September @ National Stadium, Karachi
4th IT20: Pakistan v England – 25th September @ National Stadium, Karachi
5th IT20: Pakistan v England – 28th September @ Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore
6th IT20: Pakistan v England – 30th September @ Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore
7th IT20: Pakistan v England – 2nd October @ Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore
It’s going to be fun, that much we know.
Both teams are packed full of proper entertainers and ahead of the World Cup, players on both sides will be hungry to prove themselves.
There will be ebbs and flows but we’re backing England to come out on top.