Previewing Pakistan's Fixtures, Schedule and Goals for Rest of 2014

By (Featured Columnist) on January 23, 2014

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Ineke Zondag/Associated Press

Pakistan have again lived up to their reputation as the most unpredictable team in world cricket. After being thrashed by Sri Lanka in the second Test in Sharjah, Misbah's men rescued the series with an astonishing fourth innings run chase to claim the third.

The Pakistanis can look forward to a busy few months with renewed optimism. First up is the Asia Cup followed by the World T20, then a Test and ODI series against a rejuvenated Australia.

What can Pakistan's green army expect in 2014?

1. Asia Cup

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Pavel Rahman/Associated Press

Fixtures:

25 February: Pakistan v Sri Lanka, Fatullah
27 February: Afghanistan v Pakistan, Fatullah
2 March: India v Pakistan, Mirpur
4 March: Bangladesh v Pakistan, Mirpur
8 March: Final, Mirpur

The first date on the calendar is the Asia Cup and there should be no shortage of confidence given that Pakistan are the defending champions.

Pakistan's major problem in Bangladesh may be a lack of preparation time. Misbah's men are due to arrive in Dhaka just three days before their opening match against Sri Lanka in Fatullah.

The key fixture will of course be India at Mirpur on 2 March. You have to go back to July 2008 for the last Pakistani win in this competition against their fiercest rivals.

A place in the final should be a minimum aim this time round.

2. World T20

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Tom Shaw/Getty Images

Fixtures:

21 March: India v Pakistan
23 March: Australia v Pakistan
30 March: Pakistan v Qualifier
1 April: Pakistan v West Indies

Hopes will be high, despite being drawn in the tougher of the two groups alongside India, Australia and defending champions, the West Indies.

Pakistan have a great pedigree in the World T20, reaching at least the semi-final every time the competition has been staged, including overall victory in 2009.

Mohammed Hafeez is expected to take the captaincy reins this time round. Former skipper Shoaib Malik and wicketkeeper batsman Kamran Akmal could also return after being named in the preliminary 30-man squad.

Runs have been the problem in recent T20 games, but a balanced pace attack and the spin of Saeed Ajmal always gives them a chance.

If they get through the group, anything could happen.

3. Test and ODI Series Against Australia in the UAE

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Tom Shaw/Getty Images

Dates to be confirmed.

Pakistan's next five-day action comes against Australia later this year.

Precise dates and formats are yet to be confirmed, with the Pakistan Cricket Board hoping to replace one of the three scheduled Tests with a pair of ODIs.

Whatever the make-up of the series, Michael Clarke's men should provide some stiff competition.

The conditions are unlikely to suit the strong Aussie pace attack, but Mitchell Johnson showed in Adelaide though that he doesn't need quick pitches to cause some mayhem.

4. Replenish the Top Order

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Francois Nel/Getty Images

39-year-old Misbah-ul-Haq and 36-year-old Younis Khan were the mainstay of the Pakistani top order in the recent Test series against Sri Lanka. Fine batsmen that they are, the pair can't be expected to carry on for too much longer.

Ahmed Shehzad scored his maiden Test ton in the third Test and should freshen up the top order.

It's time for the likes of Azhar Ali, Khurram Manzoor and Asad Shafiq to show that they're genuine, international-class performers.

5. More Consistency

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Francois Nel/Getty Images

How many countries could lose a Test match against Zimbabwe and then beat South Africa a few weeks later? Pakistan managed that unlikely double late last year.

The team's mercurial nature was evident in the recent series against Sri Lanka following a drubbing with one of the best fourth innings chases in Test history.

As could have been written for much of the past 40 years, Pakistan are capable of beating anyone on their day. You just can't be sure when that day will arrive.

Playing every game away from home of course makes things more difficult, but Misbah and Co. will be hoping that those great days happen more often.

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