LAHORE                   -                Pakistan retained No. 1 status in Twenty20 International ranking after the third and last T20I between Pakistan and Bangladesh was abandoned due to persistent rain here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Monday. 

The third T20I was scheduled to start at 2:00 PM but the showers were intense enough that the match was abandoned without a ball being bowled. After the day’s ill-fated match, Pakistan won the series 2-0 to maintain their top slot in the ICC T20 Ranking.

Pakistan’s No 1 status, which they earned in January 2018, was under threat after the team lost eight of its nine T20s in 2019, but the recall of veteran batsmen Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez strengthened the batting line-up as Malik’s unbeaten 58 in the first match and Hafeez’s unbeaten 67 in the second T20I helped the hosts registered easy victories and series win, which helped Pakistan hang on to their No 1 ranking in T20I with 270 points, leading Australia by just one point.

The last T20I could have been an opportunity for some youngsters including Ammad Butt and Khushdil Shah, but the rain deprived the youngsters of their due right. This was the second home fixture of Pakistan team to fall prey to precipitation in recent months. During Sri Lanka’s visit of Pakistan, the opening match of the ODI series in Karachi had also suffered the same fate.

Pakistan had already wrapped up the three-match series 2-0. In the first game, Shoaib Malik’s unbeaten half-century set up a five-wicket win for Pakistan. Chasing 142, Malik, who was making a comeback to the national side, scored 58 as the hosts took a 1-0 lead. The second T20I saw captain Babar Azam and veteran Mohammad Hafeez stitching together an unbeaten 131-run stand to steer the home side to a thumping 9-wicket triumph over Bangladesh and sealed the series for the hosts. Pakistan chased down the 137-run target in 16.4 overs as Babar, the top-ranked T20I batsman, and Hafeez scored 66 and 67 respectively.

Bangladesh will fly out on late Monday night. They will now return to Pakistan on February 5 to play the first of two Tests, at Pindi Cricket Stadium, Rawalpindi. In the final leg, which includes a one-off ODI and the second Test, will be played at National Stadium Karachi on April 3 and April 7 respectively.

Last year, Sri Lankan team also split its tour to Pakistan into two phases when it played a T20I series in Lahore then returned in December for two Test matches in Rawalpindi and Karachi, staying in Pakistan for 16 days.

Meanwhile, speaking at the presser after the third and last T20I was washed out here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Monday, Misbah said: “I think that the most important thing for us was to win. When you lose two series and even before, you were losing T20s, it was very important for the team to win. We should give credit to the bowling, for the way the young bowlers bowled. They didn’t give Bangladesh a chance to get into a position from where they can threaten us. It’s a good performance and for Pakistan cricket, it’s very good.”

“For World Cup preparations, we have a lot of time. We have PSL and more cricket going forward. We will have challenges going forward and we have time to prepare. You play to win and you try to perform as well as you can, it’s important to give yourself breathing space. But we have to still look at the shortcomings in the team and where we need to strengthen. Under pressure, you keep running after things and sometimes it’s difficult to catch up. So it’s good for the team and for me, and for the young players, that we have a confidence booster and we can relax a bit and think about the future,” he added.

“Whenever these two seniors weren’t in the team, whenever I was asked or anyone was asked, I always said that there’s no question of their careers being ended or them not being considered going forward. We did try our resources in the Sri Lanka and Australia series to see where we stand and after the two series (against SL, AUS), we realised that we need experience in the team.

“Babar also backed them and the experience benefitted us. Malik and Hafeez played good innings. So the door isn’t closed for anyone. Regarding policy, until a player is fit and performing and we think he can contribute, he should be in the team and you can utilise them specially with a World Cup around the corner. Their form is good and their fitness is good, the fitness test results were also improved. So for the team’s benefit, there’s no issue with including seniors,” he added.

Misbah said: “We will keep everything in mind when we are making a team for the T20 World Cup. Obviously, the PSL will be very important for us. The hitters who were in the team previously couldn’t perform that well. We then brought Khushdil and Iftikhar in the team. We have these options.

“At the top, you need hitters and aggressive players and also in the lower order, you need hitters. But in the middle overs against spinners also, you need these type of players. PSL will be very important to see how players perform and we can see who fits in our plans and where.

The head coach said: “We were planning on playing all of the players on the bench today. We weren’t playing them for the sake of it, we were looking to maintain a balanced team and keep the nucleus of the team. Amad Butt, Usman Qadir, Musa Khan would have played the match. Unfortunately, they’ll have to wait and didn’t get the opportunity in the last T20I.

“There’s a lot of cricket to be played. Our plan is to look at PSL performances, fitness, form etc. which will all come in front. After April 24, we have around two months’ time where there’s no matches or domestic cricket. Our plan is to get performers together in that time and play matches and then decide who stands where and fits in the combination. Then we will make a final team, before we start going on tours and then head for the Asia Cup and T20 World Cup,” he added.