By Shahid Hashmi in Birmingham
Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed put up a brave face ahead of their must-win clash against South Africa here on Wednesday, saying the team has moved on and will do its best to do well and open their Champions trophy account.
Pakistan’s crushing 124-run loss to title-holders India in their tournament opener at this same venue was criticised for the lop-sided manner in which they played. That left them to need a huge lift against world number one South Africa who are even more better in their overall play than India.
Sarfraz said the India match is now beyond them.
“We played poorly and lost, but that first match is gone and we have to move on,” said Sarfraz after team’s indoor practice in the rainy conditions.
The day-night match will be played in better conditions as there is less rain predicted on Wednesday.
Pakistan will need to restirct South Africa and more so their captain AB de Villiers who can single-handedly thrash any team on his day. Their bowlers conceded 319 to India, batsmen succumbed to just 164 with 14.2 overs remaining and fielders were sloppy in dropping two catches.
Sarfraz announced there will be two changes in the squad with Wahab Riaz ruled out of the rest of the tournament with an ankle injury sustained against India and opener Ahmed Shehzad left out after making an unimpressive 12 besides.
Junaid, so shockingly dropped from the first game, will return while opener Fakhar Zaman will make his ODI debut after playing in three Twenty20s on the tour of the West Indies in March this year.
Sarfraz admitted he made a number of mistakes in the first game but will not repeat them in the crucial game. He also admitted some young players were under pressure in their first game against arch-rivals.
“Yes, I am learning and I know I have to do that fast,” said Sarfraz. I think India-Pakistan was a big match. A couple of youngsters was playing their first match against India. Maybe they feel a bit of pressure.
That’s why we have a couple of missed chances, that definitely cost us, because the last innings, we took the catches. Last two catches, definitely things change.”
Reminded of their win over South Africa in the 2015 World Cup at Auckland, Sarfraz said Pakistan will work out their opponents.
“I think we’ve been playing against in World Cup 2015 and now we’re playing together. So you know, South Africa is a very good team. So we will work out all South Africa’s team combinations,” said Sarfraz, who made 49 as opener in that game.
South African skipper AB de Villiers played down the threat of Pakistan’s spinners, with Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan backed up by Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik.
“Yeah, two of the four are part-time spinners. We’ve played against a lot of opposition in the last, two, three years with two spinners in it. We just played a series against England now with a couple of spinners in at wrist spinner, also finger spinner,” said de Villiers.
South Africa have Imran Tahir, man-of-the-match in their first game with four for 27, always had a point to prove against Pakistan. He started his career in Pakistan but never got a chance to play international cricket before moving to South Africa and never looked back.
Their pace attack led by Kagiso Rabada and aided by Morne Morkel, and Chris Morris.
South African top order is also in good nick with Hashim Amla notching a brilliant hundred in their 96-run win over a hapless South Africa.
De Villiers is the most destructive batsman in limited overs cricket with Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy as competent as anyone in the world.
That leaves Pakistan’s task enormous but the fact that it will be curtains may inspire the young team.