Chance for Canada to shut the door on Pakistan’s stumbling World Cup campaign

- island.lk

The nature of the T20 World Cup 2024 scheduling means what cannot be forgotten must at least be shelved temporarily. Pakistan may have time to process their heartache after the defeat against India which promises to leave scars well after this tournament has been consigned to a distant, unpleasant memory. However, they do not have that time right now. Less than 48 hours after a chase they mucked up, Barbar Azam’s side must pick themselves back up off the canvas, staggering, and try to stand up straight once more as Canada come calling.

Pakistan always knew they had these two games in three days, but halfway through the chase on Sunday, that looked like a blessing rather than a curse. A win against India would have allowed them to ride that tidal wave of momentum to undo the damage of the USA defeat in their opening game. Instead, Babar will lead a dispirited, crestfallen group into the game against Canada merely to ensure Pakistan stay alive for a few more days.

Canada, meanwhile, find themselves in the somewhat unusual position of looking down the table at their more fancied opponents. If not for an Aaron Jones blitz in the opening game of this tournament, Saad Bin Zafar’s side would have been coming into this contest with two wins in two games. They then also showed impressive composure to shake off that bruising loss by bouncing back to outplay Ireland.

If in the first game, Canada showed they have the batters right down the order to put on huge scores, they demonstrated in the second the quality of the bowling line-up to squeeze Ireland effectively in defence of 137. Add to that a superb fielding performance, and this is a side that has shown it has both the hunger and the ability to trouble most in group A. And against a Pakistan line-up still licking their wounds, there may never be a better opportunity to send them back to the canvas one final time.

How Babar and Mohammad Rizwan choose to approach the innings will be a point of interest. After criticism of their placid pacing in pursuit of a low score against India, expect both to try to come out all guns blazing against the Canadians, regardless of whether Pakistan bat first or second. That might mean the game gets one of those trademark RizBar partnerships where the strokeplay sizzles. At the same time, it gives Canada the chance to get an early wicket or two, and stick their teeth into a middle order that is low on confidence.

Canada will be thankful for 26-year-old Barbados-born Nicholas Kirton not being scooped up by West Indies, because at this tournament, he has shown the personality and quality to perform on the big stage. He came into the event with a 39-ball 52 in a warm-up game against Nepal and has followed it up with 51 and 49 against USA and Ireland, which came off a combined 66 balls. The left-hander has an elegance and flair to his shotmaking, and the ability to use his wrists to open up as much of the ground as possible has made him difficult to bowl to. If, on a New York pitch no one seems quite sure of, Kirton can play another one of those innings, he will pose Pakistan problems.

There are no fresh injury concerns and limited ways Pakistan can rejig the current 15-man squad. Saim Ayub may have a shout of returning to the side, which leaves one of Usman Khan or Shadab vulnerable to the drop.

Pakistan (probable):  Mohammad Rizwan (wk),  Saim Ayub,  Babar Azam (capt),  Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan/Usman Khan,  Iftikhar Ahmed,  Imad Wasim,  Shaheen Shah Afridi,  Naseem Shah,  Haris Rauf,  Mohammad Amir

Canada are likely to go in unchanged following their win over Ireland.

Canada (probable): Aaron Johnson, Navneet Dhaliwal,  Pargat Singh, Dilpreet Bajwa,  Nicholas Kirton,  Shreyas Movva (wk),  Dilon Heyliger, Saad Bin Zafar (capt), Kaleem Sana,  Junaid Siddiqui,  Jeremy Gordon

[Cricinfo]

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