Tactics board: Babar vs Rashid, Moeen vs Shadab and a host of unknowns

Pakistan and England have only met once in the final of an ICC trophy – and coincidentally that match was also played at the MCG 30 years ago. Pakistan won a famous encounter in the 1992 World Cup Over 50 final, but what are the key clashes this time?

Three of the six Super 12 games scheduled at the MCG were abandoned without a ball being thrown and both England and Pakistan suffered defeat on their previous visits: England lost to Ireland in a rain-induced chase while Pakistani fans did not I have to remember their broken final against India.

The top three hitters on this course during the World Cup were 159 for 8, 157 for all, and 186 for 5; The first was chased by the last ball, the other two were successfully defended.

In the 29 completed T20s at the venue since the start of the 2019-20 season, the first-innings average was 167, the first-innings average was 181, and there was a slight bias towards the defending teams overall (16 wins to 13).

During that time, spinners (economy rate of 7.43) were tighter than seamers (8.34) but also took a wicket every 23.1 balls, compared to Searn’s collective strike rate of 18.9. In the three World Cup games there, spinners were slightly more expensive (7.75 economy fare) than Sear (7.70); and also have a worse hit rate (17.9 compared to 15.0).

David Hussey, whose Melbourne Stars team plays their home games at the MCG, told ESPNcricinfo ahead of the tournament that the key for bowling teams is getting the batsmen to hit the wicket and huge outfield. “The limit sizes are dead straight your friend [as a batter]while squares on either side of the field are of course quite large,” he said.

“Bowlers use a lot of changes and a lot of slower balls on the field, so teams hit the big square borders to eliminate the border options. However, when you play as a batsman, you just pretty much have to hit the gaps and run really, really hard. And when you get the full ball, take it and hit the ball dead straight, using the shorter boundaries to your advantage.

familiar faces

England and Pakistan set a record for most T20I games between teams on Sunday and the final will be the eighth official T20 they have played in the past two months, following their recent streak of seven games in Pakistan. They also played a warm-up game against each other at the Gabba in October, while England’s players are regulars in PSL and Pakistan’s in the T20 Blast. Neither team should be surprised by the opponent.

There are a few caveats. Aside from their warm-up in Brisbane, this will be the first time the teams have met on Australian soil and this World Cup was a good reminder of the importance of pitches and conditions in T20 cricket. A handful of players have limited experience of playing between Pakistan and England: Naseem Shah and Mohammad Haris have both faced England once, while Ben Stokes will play only his second T20I against Pakistan and his first in six years.

Key players at both sides missed the recent series in Pakistan through injury, which is why certain head-to-head encounters have not happened often before: Jos Buttler, for example, has only seen seven balls from Shaheen Shah Afridi in T20 cricket and five balls from Haris up.

Should Pakistan Bowl turn forward?

15 out of 16 teams at this World Championship have thrown at least one over of spin on the power play. The only exception? Pakistan who split the first six overs throughout the tournament between Afridi, Naseem, Rauf and Mohammad Wasim Jnr.

It may seem unlikely but there’s a reason that’s about to change on Sunday – especially if the new ball doesn’t swing for Afridi, who will no doubt overtake the first. During their recent bilateral streak, Mohammad Nawaz threw either the first or second over in every game and kept Alex Hales calm: conceding 19 runs from the 19 balls he threw at him and sacking him once. Buttler, on the other hand, has never faced him.

There might also be a temptation to get Shadab Khan in early: he has sacked Buttler twice in all of T20 cricket and conceded 21 runs from the 21 balls passed to him. Given the recent success of England’s opening pair, Pakistan have to reassure them early on: Buttler and Hales have scored a combined batting average of 125.49 against spin on the power play in this tournament, compared to 154.08 against seam.

England’s openers have scored the vast majority of the team’s runs throughout the tournament: Hales and Buttler have 410 runs combined, while their third-best scorer is Ben Stokes at just 56. While England have a notoriously long batting lineup, Pakistan will value their chances if they can take an early wicket and sit out players who had limited time down the middle in Australia.

Can England target weak links?

Pakistan’s percussion has been mixed but their bowling has been excellent throughout, particularly since they made the decision to change the balance of their side following their loss to India. They brought in Wasim Jnr for Asif Ali after failing to defend 159 in that game and have since conceded 130 for 8, 91 for 9, 108 for 9 (in 14 overs), 127 for 8 and 152 for 4 overall in the beginning of the Super 12s they’ve taken more wickets than any other team and have the tightest save rate.

England will see their best chance of disrupting Pakistan by defeating the less experienced bowlers on their side, namely Naseem and Wasim Jnr: both bowled brilliantly in Australia with economy rates of 6.00 and 6.61 respectively, but only 40 T20Is played between them and England will try to put them under pressure.

Their opening players were particularly good at picking out the bowlers they saw as weak links in opposing attacks and targeting them, as evidenced by Hales’ victories over Tim Southee against New Zealand and against Kasun Rajitha against Sri Lanka.

Who should Pakistan use in the middle order?

Pakistan has used Nawaz and Shadab as mid-tier “floaters” for the past three months with some success, moving them up the order to deal with opposition crackpots. It didn’t really work at this World Cup: Nawaz went 4/11 in his only innings in the top five, while Shadab’s only innings of note came from 7th place against South Africa.

Nevertheless, they will consider being flexible in the final on Sunday. Haris has been a revelation since his selection but has hit 12 runs with 16 spins to double out in his fledgling T20I career; All of his limits for Pakistan were against fast bowlers. As a result, there’s a case for shuffling him down the order if Mohammad Rizwan and Babar beat Azam through the power play, with England likely to throw Adil Rashid, Liam Livingstone and possibly Moeen Ali through the middle overs.

Shan Masood has done a solid job in an anchor role in this tournament, doing well against Rashid and Moeen in Pakistan, scoring over 150 batting average against both. If Pakistan gets off to a flying start, don’t be surprised to see Masood move up to third while Iftikhar Ahmed – who defeated Axar Patel and R Ashwin in Pakistan’s previous game at the MCG – is also able to continue her momentum down the middle above.

Match-ups that matter

Babar Azam vs Adil Rashid
Babar has been sacked three times by Rashid and has scored 77 runs from the 61 balls he faced from him, a consistent batting average of 126.22. However, he has struggled to pick Rashid’s Googly in their past encounters: two of his three dismissals against him were wrong, one in Manchester last year, the other in Karachi in September. Babar has been wary of legspins this year, posting a 113.69 batting average against legspinners at T20Is: Will he break the shackles on the big stage?

Liam Livingstone vs. Haris Rauf
Livingstone has featured in every game England have played in the last two T20 World Cups but has faced just 72 balls, underscoring how difficult it can be for mid-tier batsmen to make a difference in such a short tournament. However, Pakistan is his favorite opponent: against them he made his only hundred in an international match in July 2021 and has enjoyed keeping up with Rauf’s pace: he has sighted 19 balls from him in all T20s and scored 51 runs – including five sixes.

Moeen Ali vs Shadab Khan
Like Livingstone, Moeen has struggled to convince with the racquet at this World Cup having only had 33 balls, but England will be tempted to put him in line to turn through the middle against Pakistan – particularly against Dawid Malan , another left-hander, not recovering from a groin injury. Moeen has seen 36 balls from Shadab Khan in T20s while scoring 64 runs for two sending offs: he could be the man to defeat Pakistan’s leading spinner.

Contributions by Gaurav Sundararaman

https://www.espn.com/cricket/story/_/id/35005324/t20-world-cup-2022-tactics-board-babar-vs-rashid-moeen-vs-shadab-host-unknowns Tactics board: Babar vs Rashid, Moeen vs Shadab and a host of unknowns

Emma Bowman

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