Sarfraz wary of SL comeback as T20 battle begins

Updated October 05, 2019

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LAHORE: Sri Lankan players take part in a training session at the Gaddafi Stadium on Friday.—M.Arif/White Star
LAHORE: Sri Lankan players take part in a training session at the Gaddafi Stadium on Friday.—M.Arif/White Star

LAHORE: Despite remaining unbeaten in the ODI series against Sri Lanka, Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed on Friday said his team cannot be complacent against the tourists in the Twenty20 International series starting here at the Gaddafi Stadium under lights on Saturday.

Fresh from a 2-0 triumph in the three-match ODI rubber held in Karachi, Pakistan — ranked No.1 in Twenty20 International team rankings — take on eighth-ranked Sri Lanka as favourites.

Pakistan hold a clear edge over Sri Lanka in head-to-head record of T20 clashes, winning 13 out of 18 matches played so far while losing the rest. The greenshirts have won their last six T20 games against Sri Lanka who have failed to overwhelm Pakistan in the shortest format since December 2013.

However, Sarfraz remains wary of the tourists.

“The way Sri Lanka staged a comeback in the third ODI showed they can create an upset, so we can’t take them lightly. We will go in the T20 series with full preparations without any complacency,” Sarfraz said at the pre-match press conference after Pakistan team’s three-hour practice session at the Gaddafi Stadium.

Asked what kind of motivation his team would get from this series as Sri Lanka were touring Pakistan without a number of their top players, the wicket-keeper said the quality of play matters more than rankings in sport.

PAKISTAN batsman Umar Akmal in action during a nets session on Friday.—White Star
PAKISTAN batsman Umar Akmal in action during a nets session on Friday.—White Star

“Look, they gave us tough time in patches [during the ODI series]. In the third match, they almost scored 300 and then took five of our wickets. Therefore, I consider this squad as Sri Lanka’s main team and we should not take them lightly. Ranking does not matter [on the field] as any team can upset a stronger opponent on a given day, so we will go with full strength to get a good start to the T20 series.”

The captain defended Mickey Arthur, when asked to comment on the ex-head coach’s approach of not relying on pacer Usman Shinwari, opener Abid Ali — both of whom earned man-of-the-match award in the just-concluded ODI series — and Umar Akmal and Ahmed Shehzad, recalled for the T20 series.

“Arthur is no more our coach but he always tried to promote Pakistan cricket and his opinion about certain players may be different,” the 32-year-old skipper said.

“I welcome both Shehzad and Umar and hope they will give their best to the team and will use this opportunity [to play well and cement their place in the team]. Both of them have played for Pakistan and performed in the past. So, I believe they will play their due role to win matches for Pakistan,” Sarfraz added.

PAKISTAN captain Sarfraz Ahmed and his Sri Lankan counterpart Dasun Shanaka pose with the Twenty20 series trophy on Friday.—White Star
PAKISTAN captain Sarfraz Ahmed and his Sri Lankan counterpart Dasun Shanaka pose with the Twenty20 series trophy on Friday.—White Star

Responding to a question about his own poor batting form, Sarfraz while admitting he has not been able to play big knocks in recent outings added that once he succeeded in managing a long stay at the crease he would regain confidence.

He denied the impression that he was under any kind of pressure and that the appointment of Babar Azam as vice-captain was a worrying factor for him.

“It is the job of the PCB to appoint any best player as captain and as cricketers our job is to play and perform and that I will try to do,” he insisted.

Sarfraz said toss would be vital in Saturday’s opener, saying there was dew on the ground in the evening.

While dropping a hint that young pacer Mohammad Hasnain would be seen in action in the T20 matches against Sri Lanka, the skipper defended the poor form of spinners Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim. “I hope both will get rid of the lean patch soon.”

PAKISTAN’S bowling coach Waqar Younis (R) gives tips to Mohammad Hasnain during a practice session.—Online
PAKISTAN’S bowling coach Waqar Younis (R) gives tips to Mohammad Hasnain during a practice session.—Online

Meanwhile, Shanaka said he had fine T20 players in the squad who had the ability to give Pakistan tough time in the series.

“My squad contains youngsters who are excited to perform in this series. I am happy to lead this team and we will do our best to put up a fight against our very strong hosts,” said Shanaka.

The all-rounder thanked Pakistan for providing best security to the Sri Lankan squad, adding he had already visited Lahore and had the desire to again come here to play cricket.

Shanaka was one of the four players who came to Pakistan when Sri Lanka played a single Tweny20 International in Lahore in 2017.

He said he would try his best to convince other Sri Lankan players to come and play Test matches in Pakistan, scheduled for December this year.

“I witnessed best security measures taken by the security agencies here and my team is enjoying its stay in Pakistan,” the Sri Lankan skipper stated.

Teams (from):

PAKISTAN: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain/wicket-keeper), Fakhar Zaman, Ahmed Shehzad, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Umar Akmal, Iftikhar Ahmed, Asif Ali, Imad Wasim, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Usman Shinwari, Wahab Riaz.

SRI LANKA: Dasun Shanaka (captain), Danushka Gunathilaka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Avishka Fernando, Oshada Fernando, Shehan Jayasuriya, Angelo Perera, Bhanuka Rajapaksa, Minod Bhanuka, Lahiru Madushanka, Wanindu Hasaranga, Lakshan Sandakan, Isuru Udana, Nuwan Pradeep, Kasun Rajitha, Lahiru Kumara

Umpires: Aleem Dar and Ahsan Raza (both Pakistan)

TV umpire: Shozab Raza (Pakistan)

Match referee: David Boon (Australia).

Published in Dawn, October 5th, 2019