Pakistan will square off against Afghanistan in a three-match T20I series in Sharjah, starting March 24. They will be led by the young all-rounder Shadab Khan in the absence of regular captain Babar Azam and several other big names who have been rested. What will Pakistan’s XI look like for the Afghanistan series?

Pakistan have named a new-look squad for the Afghanistan T20Is. Several first-choice players have been rested for the series including Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Rauf, and Shaheen Shah Afridi. Performances in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) have been rewarded as the likes of Saim Ayub and Ihsanullah have been given maiden call-ups while Imad Wasim and Faheem Ashraf have been recalled.

“The Afghanistan series is the training ground to test our youngsters,” Najam Sethi, the PCB chief, said in a press interaction on March 13. “I am not worried about winning or losing to Afghanistan – if we find few talented youngsters, it will serve the purpose. The series is largely about blooding our new talent and developing them.”

Top order

Pakistan have four opening options to choose from – Shan Masood, Saim Ayub, Mohammad Haris, and Abdullah Shafique. Among them, Haris and Ayub were the most impressive in the PSL, with both scoring 180-plus runs at averages above 30 and strike rates above 180 as openers. Masood meanwhile scored 236 runs at an average of 26.22 and a strike rate of 124.87.

Masood has been part of Pakistan’s T20 setup for a while now and has been playing the anchor role at No.3. With Babar and Rizwan not there, they would ideally want him to continue in his role and have Ayub and Haris open the innings. Shafique might have to wait his turn to get in the XI.


Iftikhar Ahmed should continue at his usual No.4 position, with Azam Khan slotting in as the wicketkeeper at No.5. Khan scored 282 runs in the PSL this year at a strike rate of 161.14, and would be looking to make an impact on his T20I comeback.


Shadab Khan will bat at No.6 and lead the spin attack. For No.7 and No.8, Pakistan will have three options to choose from – the incumbent Mohammad Nawaz, and two players making their comeback, Imad Wasim and Faheem Ashraf.

While both Nawaz and Imad are similar commodities, bowling left-arm orthodox and batting left-handed, the generally low and slow Sharjah surface might force the Pakistan think-tank to pick both, with Ashraf sitting out. On the other hand, if they feel like the conditions on offer won’t be conducive to spin bowling, Ashraf will pip Imad with Nawaz retaining his spot.


For the last three slots, Pakistan have four pace bowlers to choose from – Ihsanullah, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, and Zaman Khan. Naseem and Wasim pick themselves as the regulars, while the young sensation Ihsanullah will in all probability make his international debut ahead of Zaman Khan, following his breakthrough PSL season.

Pakistan likely XI for T20Is

Mohammad Haris, Saim Ayub, Shan Masood, Iftikhar Ahmed, Azam Khan (wk), Shadab Khan (c), Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Wasim, Naseem Shah, Ihsanullah