Wisden’s current combined England-Pakistan T20I XI
@Aadya_Wisden 5 minute read
Ahead of England and Pakistan’s mega seven-match T20I series, we form a combined T20I XI featuring players from both sides.
We’ve given ourselves a bit of leeway and selected the best XI on paper, including players currently unavailable due to injury. It wasn’t easy selecting the side, as almost every position had multiple contenders to pick from. And, as is the case with such XIs, a few prominent players miss out, none more than Babar Azam, who not long ago sat atop the ICC T20I batting rankings.
With that said, here’s presenting a combined England-Pakistan XI:
Until recently, Buttler was operating on a different plane, reeling off runs with unimaginable ease. The numbers have tailed off in T20Is so far this year, but there’s little doubt Buttler is among the finest openers there are, if not the best. Since the start of 2020, his strike rate reads 148.76 – no one has scored more runs at a better rate.
It really was Babar versus Rizwan here, and the wicketkeeper-batter goes through. Currently sitting at the top of the ICC rankings, Rizwan has scored by far the most runs in T20Is since the start of 2020, strikes a tad faster than Babar, and also has the most fifty-plus scores in the period (17). If consistency is a legitimate metric to judge T20 batting, Rizwan is the epitome of it.
A former ICC rankings chart-topper, Malan has, in the past, faced criticism over his role in the side, and specifically the rate at which he starts his innings. The reputation of being a slow starter has evaporated of late: the speed at which he starts the innings has gone up considerably this year (almost 140 for balls 1-10), after revamping his attacking game. In terms of bare numbers, no batter in T20 history has scored more runs at No.3 at a higher strike rate.
If not for a freak injury that put paid to his hopes of featuring in the T20 World Cup, Bairstow would have been one of the players to watch out for in the tournament. His 53-ball 90 against South Africa in July was an innings of a man in form, and an extension of the run-filled Test season he has had.
The kind of all-rounder most sides yearn for in T20I cricket. Moeen Ali has found a different groove in his T20I career of late. The strike rate has climbed up to 159.31 since the start of 2020, and he’s hit four out of his five T20I fifties in that time. Bowling-wise too, his average and economy have come down (19.29, 7.86 respectively) since the beginning of 2020.
Few can provide the late thrust that Livingstone’s long levers can conjure. Traditionally a pace-bowling basher, Livingstone has evolved his game to suit the demands of playing spin on slow pitches. After smashing England’s fastest T20I century last year, off 42 balls, and topping the run-charts in the inaugural Hundred, Livingstone has only grown in stature. In IPL 2022, his strike rate of 182.08 was the highest for anyone with at least 350 runs.
Pakistan’s cameo specialist, who can really tonk the ball from the get-go. It’s a highly specialised role with a simple requirement: send as many over the ropes as you can. And Asif fits perfectly into the no-nonsense job – he hits a six every seven balls he faces in T20Is so far. Since the start of 2021, his strike rate stands at 157.60.
It’s not easy displacing the No.3 ranked bowler in the world, but Shadab just about edges out Adil Rashid in this team. He’s arguably more attacking, can be employed in the power play to chip through sides, and doesn’t give a lot away (economy of 7.08 since the start of 2020). Moreover, he can bat, although his optimal position is probably a little higher up the order. He is also a world class fielder.
It’s wishful thinking, given that he hasn’t played a T20I since February 2021, and no one knows how long it’ll take before he plays another. A fully fit Jofra would walk into this side, providing bursts of serious pace that few else in the international game can produce. In this XI, he’d perfectly complement Shaheen Afridi in a lethal left-right new-ball pairing.
Shaheen might have cruelly missed the Asia Cup due to injury, but is one of the first names on the sheet for Pakistan in any format. Currently the highest-ranked Pakistan seamer in the ICC rankings, Afridi has grown rapidly in stature to become the side’s spearhead at 22, taking apart top orders with his new-ball excellence. The spell against India at last year’s T20 World Cup is still a memory worth revisiting.
Since the start of 2020, no fast bowler has picked up more T20I wickets than Haris Rauf (50 wickets at 23.94). It’s a simple statistic that captures Rauf’s rapid ascent in Pakistan’s fast-bowling group. Primarily used as a first-change bowler, Rauf put on fine performances in his T20 World Cup debut last year, including a spell worth four wickets against New Zealand, and a crucial supporting hand versus India.