Saturday, 29 January 2022

Azhar Mahmood upbeat despite series loss

SHARJAH: Despite the series loss to Australia, Pakistan’s bowling coach Azhar Mahmood was upbeat about finding suitable options and trying various combinations ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, which will be played in England and Wales from 30 May to 14 July.

Pakistan lost by 80 runs in the third one-day international against Australia in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, giving the visitors an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series. Azhar said losing the series was disappointing, but bowlers have done well. “It is very disappointing for us to have lost the series,” said Azhar. “But, the bowlers have bowled well. You must give credit to Australia. (Aaron) Finch has been phenomenal in this series.”

Finch scored centuries in each of Australia’s eight-wicket wins in Sharjah before missing a third by 10 runs in Abu Dhabi. Azhar said there were still positives for Pakistan. “There have been positives like Usman (Shinwari), who bowled well on Wednesday,” said Azhar of the left-arm fast bowler who dismissed opener Usman Khawaja in the first over on Wednesday. “Junaid has come back well, young Hasnain bowled well. We have a few positives in batting with a couple of centuries in Sharjah. But, in Wednesday’s match, we just did not click.”

Azhar said there were a couple of places up for grabs for the World Cup, for which Pakistan have tried some players as potential options. “We are trying different combinations keeping the World Cup in mind,” said Azhar, adding: “If we play only our main strength and then someone gets injured, we won’t have any options left. This series is our best chance to test the bench strength.”

Pakistan will take on the Windies in the World Cup opener on 31 May at Trent Bridge. In the lead up to that match, Pakistan will play five 50-over warm-up matches, five ODIs and a T20I (versus England). With Pakistan to play a minimum of nine World Cup matches, the green shirts will feature in a minimum of 20 white ball fixtures in the approximately 10-week period.

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