KARACHI: Pakistan have set a date with the hosts and the only unbeaten team of the 2017 Champions Trophy, England, at Cardiff on Wednesday and former players want the team to leave behind the failures and look forward to the semi-final challenge.
Pakistan were saved by captain Sarfraz Ahmed and pacer Mohammad Amir after they lost six wickets for just 137 while chasing 237 on Monday. They were helped by Sri Lanka’s poor showing in the field when the dropped Sarfraz twice and also missed opportunities to run him out on a few occasions.
However, in an attempt to book a spot in the final, Sarfraz will have one less thing to worry about courtesy young left-handed opener Fakhar Zaman’s prolific form top of the order.
“Zaman opened the chase brilliantly, but Azhar Ali played a bit slow,” former Pakistan captain Moin Khan told The Express Tribune. “Pakistan were facing a problem with their openers but with Zaman’s introduction, it seems solved.”
Moin highlighted the importance of the good opening stand meanwhile ruing the poor show by the middle-order. “This is what Pakistan needs, openers building a strong base for the middle-order, but I still think that they [Zaman and Azhar] should have scored 100 together,” he said. “But the way our middle-order collapsed, that is an area of concern for the team if we want to give England a tough time.”
The former wicketkeeper-batsman added that Pakistan should restrict their focus to the England game now. “The team needs to be focused on the England match. They need to give their 100% against England if they want to beat them.”
He also praised the youngsters for their valued contribution. “The young players are doing a tremendous job for Pakistan. Our domestic structure is not as good as other countries but we are still able to unearth such great talent.”
Bowlers did their job well: Ajmal
Pakistani off-spinner Saeed Ajmal was all-praise for the bowlers after their heroics restricted Sri Lanka to 236.
“Bowlers took regular wickets to damage Sri Lanka’s chances of scoring big,” said Ajmal. “The way Junaid Khan and Hasan Ali bowled was wonderful. Muhammad Amir supported his captain really well when Pakistan needed wickets. Meanwhile, his stand with Sarfraz was also praiseworthy.”
Ajmal added that Pakistan need to soak in the pressure of facing an in-form home team and not give them any chances. “They will have to overcome all of their mistakes,” he said. “They cannot give any chances to England. They will have to field well while Sarfraz is already doing a great job of utilising his bowlers effectively.”
Sarfraz banking on Cardiff luck
Pakistan captain Sarfraz believes Cardiff has been lucky for them as they have won their last two matches at the venue and they’ll be looking to carry on with the momentum.
“We played the last ODI here [against England during the summer tour]. We win that time, we chased 300, so definitely our confidence is very high playing in Cardiff,” Sarfraz told reporters after Monday’s nailbiting triumph.
However, he is not ready to play down the hosts. “England is a very good team, a very, very good team,” said Sarfraz.
But he is ready to stick to the mantra of playing positive cricket no matter who the opponent is. “If you are playing a world-class team, definitely, you play more positive cricket, so we will do so against England,” he said.
We’ll try our best against England: Junaid
Junaid, who replaced Wahab Riaz and has assisted Pakistan in their last two victories, said that the team is ready for the England challenge and they will try their best to enter the final.
“I am very thankful to the team management as they boosted our moral and gave us confidence after the first match, which we lost to India,” he said. “We will try to give our best against England and take Pakistan to the finals.”