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With every passing day, this ICC Champions Trophy 2017 is becoming more and more interesting. While from Group A, it’s England who have registered a berth in the semi-finals, New Zealand on the other side bowed out of the competition after losing to Bangladesh.
Group B which consists of India, Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka remains to be uncertain. All four teams have a win and a loss under their belt and are left with with one match apiece. India will play South Africa on Sunday while Pakistan face the challenge of Sri Lanka on Monday.
Former Pakistan all-rounder Shahid Afridi in his column for ICC mentioned about the chances of Pakistan qualifying for semi-final stage. “I would say that Pakistan now has as good a chance of reaching the semifinals as it could have hoped for at the start of the tournament. The side must now be oozing with confidence after its remarkable turnaround in the match against top-ranked South Africa as it prepares to take on Sri Lanka in Cardiff on Monday,” he said.
Writing about the Cardiff track where Pakistan will lock horns with Sri Lanka, “The Cardiff pitch is generally good for shot-making, with the straight boundaries shorter than other venues. Like most English pitches, run-making becomes easy after the initial overs, especially if the conditions aren’t overcast. I feel Pakistan should stick to its strengths and play with the same positive approach it displayed against South Africa,” Afridi added.
“From a batting perspective, I hope that Fakhar Zaman continues to play the way he did against South Africa. If Fakhar stays at the crease for 20-30 overs, he can put the Sri Lanka bowlers under intense pressure. The southpaw should not change his style or curb his instincts unless the conditions demand so,” he added.
Afridi hailed Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan’s ability with the ball and urged them to get early breakthroughs for Pakistan. “On the other hand, new-ball bowlers Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan must get breakthroughs to put pressure on Sri Lanka. I was hugely impressed by Sri Lanka’s young batsmen who batted fearlessly against a strong Indian bowling attack. Pakistan must make solid plans and try and make inroads as early as possible to put the opposition firmly on the back foot,” he wrote.
“Both Amir and Junaid are more than capable of extracting advantage from helpful conditions. I want to reiterate here that Pakistan must have the same intensity as it showed against South Africa, with the fielders backing the bowlers,” Afridi added.
Afridi also mentioned about the ODI rankings and why a win over Sri Lanka is very important for Pakistan to climb the table. “I have a feeling that we will have an absorbing clash on Monday with both low-ranked teams giving it their all to seal a berth for the semi-finals, which will go a long way in improving their rankings, with the 30 September cut-off for ICC World Cup 2019 direct qualification,” the former Pakistani all-rounder wrote.
The aggressive batsman of his time Afridi didn’t write off the Sri Lankan bowling and insisted that Lasith Malinga can prove to be a tough bowler to deal with.
“Malinga has looked a tad off-colour in the first two games, but remember he is a champion performer who has won many games for his country. The rest of the bowling attack includes efficient bowlers who can more than hold their own on their day. “I expect the Pakistan-Sri Lanka encounter to be an absolute cracker with both teams giving it their absolute best; let’s hope that the game turns out to be a thriller which ends with a Pakistan win,” he concluded.