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KARACHI: Former chief selector Salahuddin Ahmed Sallu on Thursday backed Pakistan to bounce back in the on-going ODI series against New Zealand despite being 0-2 down and said that the brilliant comeback of Sarfraz Ahmed’s men in the Champions Trophy last year is proof enough that the team has the ability and talent to surprise the opposition.

Talking to media here, Sallu said: “The first two ODIs were hit by rain and were decided on the Duckworth-Lewis method, so we can’t really say what would have been the outcome of the matches if the full 50 overs were bowled. However, New Zealand does seem to have a clear upper hand as there players Martin Guptill, skipper Ken Williamson, Matt Henry and Colin Munro are in great form while their bowlers Trent Boult, Tim Southee and spinner Mitchell Santner are well backed by their superb fielding.”

Also read: Sarfraz should not use 'tough conditions' excuse after New Zealand defeat — Zaheer Abbas

“Having said that, I am not willing to write off Pakistan team just yet, as I feel that they have the ability and the talent to bounce back handsomely, like they did in England last year,” recalled Sallu. “After the heavy defeat against India, no one was tipping Pakistan to comeback strongly and beat South Arfrica, England and Sri Lanka to reach finals in the ICC event which they did. And the icing on the cake was the magnificent victory over India in the final. So nothing is impossible in cricket and I feel with a bit more discipline in bowling and aggressive batting, Sarfraz’s men can tame the Kiwis.

The former Test player cited the example of young Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan and how the two players took the attack to New Zealand to put a respectable total for Pakistan on the board in the second ODI. “If youngster like Hasan and Shadab can do it, and that too from a hopeless position that Pakistan was in, I am sure the top order can do it too by applying themselves in the initial overs,” he said.

“We have two very experienced players in Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez who could hold the innings together and accelerate when needed.”

Sallu, however, sounded a bit disappointed to see the Pakistani bowlers struggle in both the ODIs. “I was very confident of our bowling to perform well in New Zealand but that has not happened,” he observed. “Both Hasan and Mohammad Amir have bowled well but have not appeared threatening while our key bowler, spinner Shadab went wicketless at Nelson which is worrisome indeed.”

“The third ODI is crucial as it would be series decider if Pakistan lose, so they should regroup and perhaps make a few changes to bring in Haris Sohail in place of out of form Baber Azam and Amir Yameen perhaps for Ruman Raees. No matter what, Pakistan must come out full guns blazing at Dunedin to beat the Kiwis and remain in the contest. I wish team the very best,” concluded Sallu.

Published in Dawn, January 12th, 2018