Cardiff, June 10: Former al-rounder Shahid Afridi has asserted that Pakistan need to maintain a positive attitude in order to defeat Sri Lanka in a must win Group B game and reach the semi-finals of the ongoing Champions Trophy cricket tournament.
Pakistan have one win and a loss so far. They next face fellow sub-continent side Sri Lanka in their last group game here on Monday.
Monday’s game will be a virtual quarter-final for both teams as Sri Lanka have a similar win-loss record as Pakistan and need a win in order to keep their Champions Trophy campaign alive.
Pakistan started their campaign on a disastrous note, suffering a 124-run thrashing at the hands of arch-rivals India. But they bounced back in superb fashion, defeating South Africa by 19 runs via the Duckworth-Lewis method in their second group game.
Afridi opined that Pakistan need to maintain the momentum and keep their spirits up ahead of the clash with Sri Lanka.
“I would say that Pakistan now has as good a chance of reaching the semi-finals 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,” Afridi wrote in the official website of the International Cricket Council (ICC) on Saturday.
“I feel Pakistan should stick to its strengths and play with the same positive approach it displayed against South Africa,” he added.
The veteran all-rounder has also backed Pakistan opener Fakhar Zaman to come good against the Lankans.
“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,” Afridi said.
“The rest of the batsmen should do the basics right and follow the game plan. The Pakistan batsmen have been guilty of occupying the crease aimlessly at times. It is important that they don’t repeat the mistakes they made in the game against India,” the former Pakistan captain added.
New-ball bowlers Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan are the only bowlers who have delivered for Pakistan in the tournament so far and Afridi felt that the duo will prove themselves against the Lankans as well.
“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.
“Both Amir and Junaid are more than capable of extracting advantage of 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,” he said.
“While we haven’t seen much swing at the start of the innings thus far, one can’t rule out such a possibility, especially if there is some early moisture and favourable weather for the ball to move around.”
Afridi also opined that the Cardiff pitch may favour the batsmen.
“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,” he said.
Pakistan — currently placed eighth in the ICC ODI rankings — will improve on their position if they manage to beat Sri Lanka and enter the last four stage.
“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,” Afridi said.
Sri Lanka’s star bowler Lasith Malinga too got a mention by Afridi who called the slinger a ‘champion bowler.’
“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 former explosive opener said.
“The rest of the bowling attack includes efficient bowlers who can more than hold their own on their day.”