Cornered Pakistan need to get into attack mode

Cornered Pakistan need to get into attack mode
Pakistan's captain Sarfaraz Ahmed (3R) talks with Pakistan's bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi (C) during a break in play at the 2019 Cricket World Cup warm up match between Pakistan and Afghanistan at Bristol County Ground in Bristol, southwest England, on May 24, 2019.

LONDON: Throughout this World Cup, Pakistan have tried and failed in the bid to find their best eleven.
Their struggle continued on the eve of the must-win World Cup game against equally rattled South Africa here at Lord’s on Sunday.
While confirming that Pakistan would tinker with their playing line-up in the wake of a humiliating 89-run defeat against India at Old Trafford on Sunday, skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed said that the final eleven will only be decided just before the toss.
“There is some grass on this wicket. We have made up our mind about some changes but will only decide the playing eleven after seeing the conditions tomorrow morning,” he said after the team’s final training session before Sunday’s game.
Pakistan have been faced with this sort of selection dilemma since the start of the World Cup. And the below-par performance of some of the key players in their line-up hasn’t helped their cause.
Players like Shoaib Malik and Hasan Ali have flopped consistently in the high-profile contest leaving the Pakistani think-tank to seriously think about finally handing young pacer Mohammad Hasnain his World Cup debut on Sunday and bringing back reliable middle-order batsman Haris Sohail in the line-up.
But neither of them guarantees that Pakistan would benefit from their inclusion.
Hasnain, 19, was picked in Pakistan’s 15-man World Cup squad with a lot of fanfare on the basis of his fiery spells in the Pakistan Super League. But the pacer, who was one of the success stories of the T20 league earlier this year, has been largely ineffective since making his ODI debut against Australia in the UAE. In five ODI appearances, he has taken five wickets at an average of 60.60. His high economy rate of 7.39 doesn’t look good either.
But so bad has been the form of Hasan Ali (2 wickets from 4 World Cup outings at an average of 128) that Pakistan were extremely tempted to replace him with Hasnain.
Similarly, they know the need to get rid of the misfiring Malik, who has just scored 8 runs from three World Cup games. Their go to man will be Haris, who was axed after failing in a seven-wicket loss against West Indies.
Pakistan don’t inspire much trust even against an under-performing team like South Africa because of all the question marks surrounding their key players apart from pacer Mohammad Amir.
Their body language isn’t helping either.
They’ve been trying to put up a brave face since the Manchester debacle but it was quite evident that the team is in fragile shape going into yet another critical World Cup match.
Sarfaraz looked like a beaten man as he took queries from reporters on Saturday.
He and his team will need to shrug off the disappointment of their past defeats to conquer the Proteas and stay alive in the competition. They will need to play like Imran Khan’s cornered tigers, who won the 92 World Cup from a seemingly impossible position.
For that they would need key contributions from the likes of big-hitting opener Fakhar Zaman and prolific top-order batsman Babar Azam.
Fakhar is yet to score a match-winning ton against a top side since his sensational hundred in the Champions Trophy final against India two years ago. Similarly, Babar has established himself as one of the top batsmen in international cricket but is yet to win a big game for Pakistan.
Sunday’s game would be the first World Cup match at Lord’s. In fact it would be the first ODI at the iconic venue since July 2018 when India faltered against England’s spin twins Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali in a big run-chase.
Most of the grass on the Lord’s wicket was shaved on Saturday which means that it could be a batting pitch offering some help to spinners. Pakistan’s spin trio of Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim and Mohammad Hafeez could pose problems for the shaky South African batting line-up especially in the second innings.
Pakistan were criticised for opting to bowl first on a batting wicket against India. This time they might go for a different option if Sarfaraz wins the toss.
A total of 300 plus could put the Proteas under pressure especially because the team’s chief batsmen aren’t in top form. The South Africans have passed 300 only once in the World Cup. Like Pakistan, none of their batsmen have scored a century though there have been six fifties.
Hashim Amla has been a bit off colour but could be a dangerman against Pakistan, a team against whom he hit his last ODI ton earlier this year. At this World Cup, opener Quinton de Kock is their top run-getter with just 191 runs while skipper Faf du Plessis is averaging a mere 32 for a grand total of 132.
Rain is highly unlikely to play any role on Sunday as the forecast is of intervals of sunshine and clouds throughout the day.
Teams (likely):
Pakistan (possible): Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt & wk), Haris Sohail, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain
South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (capt), Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Lungi Ngidi.


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