LAHORE: Pakistan One-Day International (ODI) skipper Azhar Ali has admitted that the Men in Green cannot afford to lose a single match against Zimbabwe as it could affect the team’s chances of qualifying in the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
The top eight teams of the world by September 30 this year would cement their places for the competition to be played in England where as Pakistan is struggling at an all-time low ninth position.
They will remain in the same position even if they win this three-match series and then would be required to beat Sri Lanka as well comprehensively in the five-match one-day series in two months time to have any chance of progressing.
While the win against Zimbabwe will not make any significant impact, the loss could certainly dent the prospects.
“We know that every match is now important for us and we can’t afford to lose with Champions Trophy qualification at stake,” Azhar said during the press conference on Thursday.
“It is certainly on our mind that we can’t be complacent and series against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka remain of immense importance. There is definitely pressure on us regarding the qualification but we got to remain positive and try our best.”
Azhar also defended the bowling of Pakistan stating that it was not easy to bowl in the first ODI as the ball got wet because of heavy dew which made life difficult for the bowlers.
“Batting has been wonderful so far but balling has struggled due to batting-friendly pitches as execution gets tough for bowlers. However, we got to improve and come over the tough conditions to do better in next two matches,” Azhar added.
Pakistan played too many all-rounder in the first match and frontline bowler Junaid Khan was limited to the sidelines and asked whether that played a role in poor bowling, Azhar replied that there were plenty of bowling options available and the management is trying to groom all-rounder as they have been missed previously.
He also backed pacer Mohammad Sami explaining that he bowled brilliantly with the new ball but struggled in later part of the innings while Azhar also opined that Anwar Ali and Hammad Azam bowled well but were unlucky to concede too many runs on inside and outside edges.
The newly turned opener also hoped that lanky pacer Mohammad Irfan will get fit ahead of important tour against Sri Lanka as he is a strike bowler and is feared by other teams.
‘Chigumbura’s absence will be felt’
Zimbabwe will be missing their in-form captain Elton Chigumbura after he was suspended for rest of the two matches for slow over-rate and Hamilton Masakadza will be the stand-in leader.
Azhar said that he will certainly be missed by Zimbabwe because he was going through a purple patch and it has given Pakistan the advantage which they will try to capitalise upon.
Meanwhile, Masakadza termed it as loss on two fronts.
“It’s a loss on both fronts for Zimbabwe not to have Elton as a batsman and his leadership skills as well for the next two one-dayers. But I feel our team still has the capability of coming back and beating Pakistan,” an optimistic Masakadza remarked.
“We have got into good positions at times but just not have been able to finish off matches. The pitch is very good to bat on thus the bowling reflection has not been good as well. It is also really refreshing to get the backing of home crowd, something different to us because we haven’t experience such support before.”
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