Pak hopes to carry on winning momentum against Zim in ODIs
LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistan will try and carry its winning momentum against Zimbabwe into their one-day international series from Tuesday, knowing nothing less than a 3-0 win would keep them in contention for next year’s Champions Trophy.
Pakistan clinched the Twenty20s with two hard-fought victories in front of sell-out crowds of 27,000 at Gaddafi Stadium, in the first major international cricket matches in the country in six years.
Pakistan was whitewashed 3-0 in ODIs in Bangladesh recently, dropping the team to No. 9 in the world rankings. Pakistan will lose two more points even if it wins 2-1 against Zimbabwe.
“We know it’s (3-0 victory) very important for the Champions Trophy, but it’s also necessary to build the team,” said Azhar Ali, who captained Pakistan for the first time in the Bangladesh series.
Pakistan has beefed up its squad by recalling fast bowler Mohammad Sami and allrounder Shoaib Malik. Malik last played an ODI in the 2013 Champions Trophy, while 34-year-old Sami has been out for three years.
Sami and Malik had a mixed return in the T20s against Zimbabwe, but Ali insisted Pakistan needed experienced players in the ODIs in the absence of retired allrounder Shahid Afridi, and injuries to fast bowlers Mohammad Irfan and Rahat Ali.
“Every team plays with four bowlers, plus two, three allrounders, which we missed in Bangladesh,” Ali said.
“We are trying to develop a combination which has good allrounders, and we have six, seven bowlers in this squad.”
Along with allrounders Malik and Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan has picked Anwar Ali, and the uncapped Hammad Azam and Imad Wasim, who can bat down the order.
Ali is one of the several players who hasn’t played an international at home since making their Pakistan debuts over the last six years. He enjoyed the electrifying atmosphere at Gaddafi Stadium on Sunday, when Pakistan clinched a tense two-wicket victory.
“It’s very emotional for me,” he said. “I’ve been playing for Pakistan for the last five years, but haven’t played at my home ground. It’s an exciting moment for me ... it’s great that cricket has returned to Pakistan.”
The Zimbabwe bowlers and fielders disappointed their captain Elton Chigumbura after the batsmen gave them decent totals of 172 and 175 in the T20s.
“Our batting is good and it’s down to our fielding and bowling,” Chigumbura said. “If we can do that (well), I’m sure we will win games.”