Pakistan needs another top bowling effort in its biggest test yet: Shahid Afridi

13 Jun, 2017 11:44 pm

CARDIFF – Pakistan has defied expectations to book a place in the semi-finals following two resolute performances against South Africa and Sri Lanka but Sarfraz Ahmed’s side now faces the biggest test against hot favourite England in Cardiff.

I have discussed Pakistan’s strategy more than once, so I will start this piece by focusing on England and how it has played consistent cricket for the last two years.

Under Eoin Morgan, England has rejuvenated beyond recognition and is now one of the leading limited overs sides. The English batsmen play the game with a great degree of freedom and positivity and are always ready to assert their superiority over the opposition.

England has posted 300-plus scores with unerring regularity in recent games, which is largely due to the abundance of talent, power and skill in its batting line-up, which runs deep. For Pakistan, the wicket of Joe Root would be extremely crucial tomorrow. Root is their pivotal player at number three and if he is sent packing early on, Pakistan can cause jitters in the English camp.

But I should caution to add that it’s not about Root alone, as we have seen in earlier matches of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017. Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Butler, etc are all more than capable of playing match- winning innings. In fact, no team in the world can match the host’s strength and sheer number of match-winners in both batting and bowling.

Pakistan bowlers would have to make regular inroads if they are to restrict England’s free-flowing batting line-up.

Jason Roy’s lack of form at the top of the innings is a worry for England and if it replaces him with Jonny Bairstow tomorrow it can provide Pakistan an opportunity of targeting a new player who hasn’t featured in the tournament yet.

Besides Root, Morgan would be another key player in the English line-up. As a captain and batsman, Morgan has an unflappable temperament as he has displayed in the tournament already.

Like its batting, England possesses a formidable bowling unit that can dismantle any batting line-up in the world on its day. Pakistan’s top and middle-order would have to make their presence felt against the English attack in no uncertain terms. We can’t afford to slack the way we did against Sri Lanka since a top fielding side like England would not give us chances on a platter.

I have spoken in detail about the contribution of senior players for Pakistan: tomorrow the likes of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik must come good and deliver a commanding performance.

Knockout games at ICC events are memorable occasions; these are the times when a senior player can leave a legacy behind with a match-winning contribution and justifying his presence in the team.

The game tomorrow provides Hafeez, Malik and other seniors in the team this opportunity and I really hope that they raise their hand and deliver an inspired performance that can be remembered for years to come.

Pakistan’s game plan should be simple – repeat the bowling performance against Sri Lanka and search for breakthroughs all the time. With the bat and while fielding, the team would need a major improvement, especially in the middle-order.

I have confidence in our bowling department and if the other two can come close to matching the bowlers, Pakistan can surely spring another surprise and continue its fine run in the competition.

I wish Pakistan the very best and hope the team fights hard and gives England a real run for its money. We are in for a cracking game at Cardiff. As always I am rooting for my team. –Courtesy ICC

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