Sarfaraz: ‘I think the difference was our bowling and fielding’

After slipping to an embarrassing 124-run defeat against arch-rival India, Pakistan bounced back strongly to outplay the no.1 ODI side in the world in all three departments.

Sarfraz praised the way the team’s backroom staff led by South African coach Mickey Arthur had helped restore the side’s self-belief.   -  Getty Images

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said playing in front of a ‘home’ crowd had helped inspire his side to a 19-run win over South Africa in its Champions Trophy encounter at Edgbaston.

The Men in Green went from zeroes to heroes in three days, bouncing back from a 124-run thrashing by arch-rival India, to topple the world’s number one-ranked ODI side.

Pakistan fans dominated a crowd of more than 16,000, giving it the air of a home game for Sarfraz’s men in Birmingham, a city with one of the largest Asian populations in Britain.

“That is a feeling we miss, not playing in Pakistan,” said Sarfraz.

“Maybe that was the difference, the crowd was supporting us and that’s why the players were boosted.”

Pakistan has had to play most of its matches overseas after a 2009 terror attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore raised serious safety concerns for travelling sides.

But chants of “Pakistan Zindabad!” (“Long live Pakistan!”) rang round Edgbaston which turned into a sea of green. Sarfraz’s side gave its fans reason to cheer when spinners Imad Wasim and Mohammad Hafeez took three early wickets before paceman Hasan Ali removed a trio of middle-order batsmen.

Pakistan kept the Proteas to a modest 219 for eight, having conceded exactly 100 more against title-holders India.

“I think the difference was our bowling and fielding,” said wicketkeeper-captain Sarfraz.

“Mohammad Hafeez and Imad Wasim bowled really well and they took the pressure off us,” he said.

“We had a good bowling meeting (on Tuesday),” added Sarfraz, who saw his attack rebound after India smashed 72 from the final four overs of its innings on Sunday.

“We took wickets. If you take wickets, every good team comes under pressure.”

Pakistan also improved with the bat, with debutant Fakhar Zaman helping his team’s chase off to a brisk start. Despite losing two wickets in quick succession, Babar Azam (31 not out) and Shoaib Malik (16 not out) steered Pakistan to 119 for three off 27, when the heavens opened. The AB de villiers-led South African team was trailing by 19 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis method when rain ended the match.

Sarfraz praised the way the backroom staff led by South African coach Mickey Arthur had helped restore the side’s self-belief.

“They backed us after the defeat, they supported us very well, so that’s why we played a good game.”

A feature of Pakistan’s performance win against South Africa was its vastly improved fielding, after a shambolic display against India. Sarfraz drew laughter from reporters when he admitted the improvement couldn’t be down to practice.

“I think actually we do no fielding at all,” he said. “We had rain the other day, so actually we did nothing.”

The result throws Group B wide open and gives Pakistan a chance of qualifying for the semi-finals when it faces Sri Lanka in its final group match on Monday.

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