TAUNTON: Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed denied his team carry any scars from their 5-0 rout by Australia in March and is confident of victory in Wednesday’s World Cup contest against the reigning champions.
But the much-awaited fixture could fall prey to persistent spells of rains in the southern and west parts of England.
Pakistan were forced to split points with Sri Lanka after last Friday’s match in Bristol was abandoned because of rain and the prospect of another washout looms large over their next outing.
“Firstly, we can’t control the weather, you know… But definitely if the match is shortened, definitely plan changes,” Sarfraz told a media conference at the County Ground on Tuesday.
Australia thrashed a depleted Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates follow their thrilling 3-2 series victory in India to signal their preparation for a successful title defence in the World Cup.
“I think that thing is past,” Sarfraz commented. “We’re not thinking about that. We’re actually thinking about tomorrow’s game. Our morale is very high, we got a momentum. So hopefully we’ll try to play very good cricket against them tomorrow [Wednesday].”
The 1992 champions have looked characteristically unpredictable in the tournament as they began their campaign with a defeat by West Indies but bounced back in style shocking hosts and title favourites England.
“We have not won many matches against Australia but we had not won too many against England either,” Sarfraz pointed out “But we have finally beaten England and that has given us a lot of positives. We will go with the aggressive approach we showed against England.”
The wicket-keeper expects to face an Australia side stung by a 36-run loss to India last weekend — their first defeat of this World Cup following wins over Afghanistan and the West Indies.
“We know Australia will try to come back and with [Steve] Smith and [David] Warner back they are at their best again,” said Sarfraz. “We respect all our opponents and are ready for them.”
Australia’s Marcus Stoinis has been ruled out of the match with a side strain and fellow all-rounder Mitchell Marsh has been flown over to England as back-up.
The five-time champions went down to India in Sunday’s match at The Oval where Stoinis sustained the injury.
Australia captain Aaron Finch, meanwhile, hoped the holders don’t become the latest team to be derailed by bad weather.
Heavy rain has forced two no-results in the World Cup so far and Finch has been anxiously eyeing the forecast to see if Australia could be the next victims on Wednesday.
Finch conceded luck with the weather could play a role in who makes the semi-finals from the 10-team group stage.
“I think it [weather] might play a huge part in the next few days,” Finch told reporters on Tuesday. “Next week it starts fine and looks good across the country for the remainder of the tournament.
“So it’s important that you get early wins on the board because you don’t want to be on the wrong end of a couple of washouts that might leave you just outside that top four.”
Australia failed to qualify for the semi-finals of the 2017 Champions Trophy in England following their rained-off matches against New Zealand and Bangladesh before they lost to England on D/L method.
If the match does get underway, Finch expects unpredictable Pakistan to provide a stern test.
“I think Pakistan are obviously a very dangerous side,” Finch said of Pakistan, who have only won one of their last 14 matches against Australia. “We’ve seen consistently throughout, especially ICC tournaments, that they win a lot of games and they get themselves in a position to win the tournament.
“They had a great Champions Trophy. So regardless of what kind of form Pakistan go in with, they’re always incredibly dangerous.”
Pakistan survived a defeat against India in their opening game of the 2017 Champions Trophy before crushing their arch-rivals in the final, leaving Finch a firm admirer of several of their players.
“They’ve got some world-class players. Obviously Babar [Azam] is in great touch batting at No. 3 and holding their batting together,” Finn said. “[Mohammad] Amir coming back and he looks to be back to his best. He’s swinging the ball again. Wahab [Riaz] has been fast and aggressive. Shadab [Khan] is a great bowler.
“Hasan [Ali] had a great Champions Trophy as well,” said Finch of the pace bowler who was the player of the Champions Trophy with 13 wickets in 2017. “When you look down their side there’s no player that you can disregard. They’ve got a lot of experience on their side. They’ve got a lot of match winners.”
Australia will hope opener Warner, for all he has already scored two fifties this World Cup, is back to his destructive best.
Warner’s 56 off 84 balls against India — of which 48 were dots — helped contribute to a slow run-rate that left Australia with too much to do at the end of their innings.
But Finch backed Warner, who along with Smith is playing in his first major tournament for Australia since serving a year-long ban for ball-tampering.
“They [India] bowled very well to Warner and he needs some more time. He’s a world-class player and will get us off to a flyer,” said Finch.
Australia all-rounder Marcus Stoinis has been ruled out of the Pakistan match with a side strain, Finch told reporters on Tuesday.
Stoinis, who has played in all three games for Australia in the tournament, picked up the injury in Sunday’s match against India.
All-rounder Mitchell Marsh has been flown over to England as back-up, but the Australians will wait to make a call on whether he permanently replaces Stoinis in their 15-man squad.
Sarfraz, in the meantime, insisted Pakistan fans won’t boo shamed Australia star batsman Steven Smith.
Pakistan fans are expected to make up a large chunk of the crowd in the west country and there are fears they might follow the example of the India supporters who jeered Smith at The Oval on Sunday.
But Sarfraz says his compatriots will not resort to such tactics.
“I don’t think Pakistani people will do that,” Sarfraz remarked. “Pakistani people love cricket, they love to support and they love the players.”
A large number of Indian fans chanted ‘cheater’ at Smith, who back in action following a year-long ball for his role in the ball-tampering scandal that rocked Australia during their tour of South Africa in 2018.
India captain Virat Kohli gestured in an effort to quiet the crowd and later apologised to Smith.
Published in Dawn, June 12th, 2019