Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq has mentioned that Azam Khan and Sohaib Maqsood will be considered in the team’s middle-order in their upcoming limited-overs series against England that starts on July 8. Misbah also said that a majority of players are in good form, heading into the series.
Pakistan will tour England in July to play three one-day internationals followed by as many numbers of T20 International games, with the ODI series, starting July 8, being played first.
And ahead of the series, Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq feels that young Azam Khan and the experienced Sohaib Maqsood could be slotted in the middle-order given their contribution for their respective franchise in the recently concluded Pakistan Super League. This despite Maqsood opening the batting for Multan Sultans and scoring 428 runs, the third-highest in the tournament, at an impressive strike rate of 156.78.
"The PSL made a few things clear. I think it is that one slot we are trying to fill, at No. 5 and No. 6, that we've had issues with. We have Azam Khan now and Sohaib Maqsood with us to see if they can, and what combination we can make with them," Misbah said on Sunday, reported Cricbuzz.
Azam Khan, meanwhile, who endured his breakthrough in the 2020 Lanka Premier League, has seen a dip in form in his last few innings for Quetta Gladiators where he amassed 76 runs from his five innings after the tournament resumed in June.
In their last few bilateral series, Pakistan have tried numerous options in the middle order with the likes of Sarfaraz Ahmed, Asif Ali, Danish Aziz, Faheem Ashraf and Haider Ali all being given opportunities, but consistency and explosiveness are aspects that have evaded the middle-order. Misbah believes that Azam could provide a breath of fresh air that could reinvigorate the middle-order.
"We try that whatever players we have here are fully prepared and that we show confidence in them so they go out there and perform. Azam no doubt is talented although he is a little out of form recently. But everyone knows that in modern T20 cricket, the power you need at five or six, the strike rate you need, he has the potential for that. So, looking forward to seeing him, we just have to see what combination we want to go with."
The last few months have been good for Pakistan in white-ball cricket, with them enjoying series wins across formats against South Africa and Zimbabwe, but they will face their toughest challenge yet when they clash against England. Misbah expressed delight over the fact that several players are in 'good form', and asserted that his side will have time to play their way into the tour owing to the tour kicking off with the ODI matches.
"Overall, the bowling we know we have pretty much our attack. At the top of the order we have our four pretty much and their replacements. So, we know our side more or less but a couple of positions that we need to focus on over the next two series,” Misbah said.
"It's always a good thing that the maximum number of players are in good form and in a good frame of mind. But you learn from cricket that it doesn't matter when you have good form and runs and you still don't perform. And sometimes you're not in good form but you come with more focus, you try harder to recapture that form.
"One good thing is we have time. We have ODIs first, so we can utilise that time and then be properly prepared as we go into the T20s. Form is not something that sticks with you permanently or goes away permanently. As coaching staff and players you try and get that back and we have enough time to do it,” Misbah concluded.
The first of the three ODIs will be played at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, on July 8.