LAHORE: Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman is looking forward to playing alongside Sharjeel Khan during upcoming T20I matches against South Africa and Zimbabwe. Pakistan will play four T20Is against South Africa before moving to Zimbabwe, where they are scheduled to play two Test matches and three T20Is. The left-hander played a crucial role in Pakistan’s ODI series win against Proteas, scoring 302 runs in three innings with the help of two centuries, and was also named the player of the series. Zaman named Sharjeel as one of his favourite cricketers while praising the fellow left-hander. “I know that I’m part of the squad till Zimbabwe tour but don’t know whether I will play or not,” said Zaman during a virtual press conference on Thursday. “Sharjeel Khan is one of my favourite cricketers in T20 cricket. I would feel really good if I get the opportunity to bat alongside him. He makes cricket look very easy. So, let’s see what happens going forward,” he added.
The Katlang-born also doesn’t mind batting lower down the order, considering that Pakistan’s first-choice opening pair in T20Is is currently skipper Babar Azam and wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan. “I will happily try to fulfill whatever role is given to me by the team. I don’t think, especially in South Africa, that there is much of a difference with regards to batting with the new ball or old and also as opener or in the middle-order because of the bouncy tracks here,” he added.
Selectors have made a late call to include Fakhar Zaman in their squad for the T20I series against South Africa and Zimbabwe. He was earlier overlooked for the format and was meant to return back home following the ODIs, but having struck back-to-back centuries, the opener appears to have made a case that couldn’t be ignored. With Zaman coming into the T20I line-up, Pakistan have five top-order options to choose from. They recently welcomed Sharjeel back into the fold for the first time in over four years who will provide competition to Zaman. Zaman last played a T20I in November and has had a tough time making it into the Pakistan side to play the shortest format. He was left out of the New Zealand tour after developing Covid-19 symptoms and though subsequent tests cleared him of having the disease, the results didn’t come back in time and the team had already flown out of the country. Zaman didn’t get a look in during the home series against South Africa either, but in light of his recent form, things have changed.
The 193 off 154 balls against South Africa in the second ODI at Wanderers, where he almost single-handedly pulled off a chase of 342 only to fall short thanks to a controversial run-out, had not only bolstered his place on the ICC rankings but convinced the Pakistan selectors that his firepower would be useful for their T20I side. Zaman followed that up with another century –– 101 off 104 balls –– in the series decider.