Semifinal in sight, Pakistan keen for a ball against the Afghans

Pakistan will depend on its star performers — Mohammad Amir and Babar Azam — to deliver a telling blow against an Afghan side that is yet to taste success in England and Wales.

Shadab Khan (left) celebrates the wicket of Aiden Markram with team-mate Babar Azam during the World Cup match against South Africa at Lord's in London.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

Pakistan, always unpredictable, has bounced back from an insipid start to the World Cup to inflict blows on South Africa and New Zealand to keep its semifinal hopes alive. The Sarfaraz Ahmed-led side will look to extend its winning streak when it takes on Afghanistan at Headingley on Saturday.

Pakistan will depend on its star performers — Mohammad Amir and Babar Azam — to deliver a telling blow against an Afghan side that is yet to taste success in England and Wales.

Amir has bowled consistently, bagging 16 wickets, while Babar has peaked at the right time, scoring an unbeaten ton against New Zealand and 69 against South Africa.

Mohammad Amir.   -  GETTY IMAGES

 

The move to restore Haris Sohail in place of an off-colour Shoaib Malik has bolstered the team’s batting department, and it has also found an able support for Amir in young left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi. The youngster terrorised the Kiwi top-order with his stinging pace and sharp movement, taking us back to a time when Pakistani pacers were a terror to every opposition batsman.

READ| Babar Azam amassing runs at a faster clip than idol Virat Kohli

Afghanistan, still in search of its first win in this tournament, has struggled with its batting even as the bowlers put up strong displays against India and Bangladesh. The team, however, can draw confidence from its win over Pakistan in a warm-up game.

Pakistan, aware of Afghanistan’s talents, refuses to be complacent and batsman Sohail said: “We have kept it very simple. We are going from match to match. They (Afghanistan) have quality spinners and we have seen a lot of videos and we've worked from them.”

With a spirited Pakistan threatening again, the cricket fans are hoping Sarfaraz and his men can tread on the footsteps of Imran Khan’s 1992 World Cup-winning side, which, too, had bounced back from a similar poor start to the tournament.