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ICC Champions Trophy 2017: Predicted XI for Pakistan

SHARJAH, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - SEPTEMBER 30: Sarfraz Ahmed of Pakistab bats  during the first One Day International match between Pakistan and West Indies at Sharjah Cricket Stadium on September 30, 2016 in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)
Pakistan's newly appointed ODI skipper, Sarfraz Ahmed, will have e a tough task to rally together a no.8 side
rohit sankar

Pakistan go into the Champions Trophy as the eighth-ranked side and have barely had time to regroup after the PSL corruption case and the retirements of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan from Tests. The ODI side is far more settled despite having a new captain in Sarfraz Ahmed, who took over from Azhar Ali.

Ali still remains an integral part of Pakistan's top order after he had a good 2016 with the bat in the limited overs format. They had to send back Umar Akmal for failing a fitness test but replaced him with Haris Sohail, who may not get a place in the starting XI given that the top six are fairly settled.

Akmal's departure might open doors for Mohammad Hafeez, who has had an indifferent season with the bat. The bowling front seems sound with the emergence of the 18-year-old Shadab Khan. Hasan Ali is among the top wicket-takers in 2017 and Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz have looked good.

Here we take a look at the possible starting XI for Pakistan in the Champions Trophy.


Openers

LEEDS, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01:  Azhar Ali of Pakistan hits to the offside off the bowling of Adil Rashid as wicketkeeper Jonny Bairstow looks on during the 4th Royal London One -Day International match between England and Pakistan at Headingley on September 1, 2016 in Leeds, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Azhar Ali's ability to see off the new ball should favour Pakistan

Pakistan are likely to open with Azhar Ali and Ahmed Shehzad. The former skipper has had a good few months with the bat and is a really sound option against the swinging ball. In England.

Shehzad, on the other hand, is every bit as flamboyant as they come. An exquisite cover driver, Shehzad has quite a few shots up his sleeve although poor form has seen him walk in and out of the team. Hafeez might push him for the opening slot if questions remain over his form but Shehzad should hold on to his place for the tournament opener against arch-rivals, India.

Middle-order

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 26: Babar Azam of Pakistan bats during game five of the One Day International series between Australia and Pakistan at Adelaide Oval on January 26, 2017 in Adelaide, Australia.  (Photo by Morne de Klerk/Getty Images)
Babar Azam will be the key figure in Pakistan's middle-order

Babar Azam is settled in at no.3, having scored 436 runs in 8 games in 2017. Azam is Pakistan's leading batsman this year and his sound technique and impeccable form have seen him cement his spot in the middle-order. Azam is also seventh in the ICC ODI batsman's rankings going into the tournament.

Mohammad Hafeez should be the automatic choice at no.4 given that he can either play the anchor role or go hammer and tongs. The veteran batsman may be pushed by Haris Sohail or Fakhar Zaman, who is yet to debut in the format, for a spot in the eleven if Pakistan opt to go for a younger looking side.

Shoaib Malik, who is set to play his sixth Champions Trophy, the most by any player, is a sure shot at no.5. The veteran all-rounder played a vital role in the warm-up game win against Bangladesh and is also the last Pakistani to score a hundred in the tournament (128 against India at Centurion in the 2009 edition)

The skipper Sarfraz Ahmed will come in behind a packed top order and is a versatile batsman himself. With an ability to play shots all around the wicket, Sarfraz is equally adept against pace and spin. The wicket-keeper batsman should be followed by some all-rounders capable of hitting the long ball.

All-rounders

Faheem Ashraf will likely edge Imad Wasim as the all-rounder in the side

Faheem Ashraf excelled in the chase against Bangladesh with an exceptional 64 off 30 balls with four fours and as many sixes and is likely to be the only all-rounder in the Pakistan line-up. The match-winning knock should see him get a promotion to no.7 from the no.9 he batted in during the game against Bangladesh.

However, it will worry Pakistan that he has bowled nine wicketless overs in the warm-up games. Ashraf has 60 wickets in 38 List A games at a strike rate below 30, which is quite impressive. If he fails to grab his chance in the first two games, Imad Wasim could replace him in the line-up.

Spinners

The leggie has emerged as a possible replacement for Yasir Shah

The 18-year-old leggie, Shadab Khan, impressed mightily in the T20 series against the West Indies, picking up 10 wickets in four games. He is a risky call on the flat English wickets on offer but is expected to replicate his T20 success in the 50 over games.

The leggie has emerged as a possible replacement for Yasir Shah in all formats with truckloads of talent. However, an ICC tournament as the premier spinner will be a huge test for the rookie leg-spinner. Imad Wasim is the other spinner available in the squad.

Fast bowlers

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 22:  Hasan Ali of Pakistan celebrates taking the wicket of Steve Smith of Australia during game four of the One Day International series between Australia and Pakistan at Sydney Cricket Ground on January 22, 2017 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)
Hasan Ali has been amongst the wickets and will be an automatic choice in the Pakistan eleven

Pakistan will likely go in with three pace bowlers in Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali and Wahab Riaz. Amir bowled with flair and rhythm in the series against England last year after returning to the national team and if the ball swings around, he is among the best in the business.

Hasan Ali, with 18 wickets in 2017 is the top wicket-taker for Pakistan in the year and is the fourth highest in the list of top wicket-takers in 2017. Although his economy is on the higher side, the ability to take wickets should see Hasan preferred over Junaid Khan.

Wahab Riaz has excelled for Pakistan in the limited over formats and is a fiery bowler to face first change. With a sharp bouncer and pinpoint yorkers, Riaz can be Pakistan's X-factor with the ball. The 2015 World Cup battle with Shane Watson will be on the minds of the batsmen as they face a steaming Wahab Riaz.

Edited by Staff Editor

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