Stokes lauds match-winner Mahmood as Pakistan seek to avoid whitewash

Published July 13, 2021
In this Sept 7, 2017 file photo, England's Ben Stokes holds up the ball after taking his sixth wicket on the first day of the third test match between England and the West Indies at Lord's cricket ground in London. —AP/File
In this Sept 7, 2017 file photo, England's Ben Stokes holds up the ball after taking his sixth wicket on the first day of the third test match between England and the West Indies at Lord's cricket ground in London. —AP/File

BIRMINGHAM: Stand-in captain Ben Stokes said on Monday Saqib Mahmood’s dynamic impact with the ball for England against Pakistan will make the team’s established stars fear for their places when they return from coronavirus (Covid-19) isolation.

Eoin Morgan’s first-choice one-day squad was forced to quarantine after a Covid-19 outbreak ahead of the series.

That left pace bowler Mahmood as one of the more experienced options available to England head coach Chris Silverwood despite owning just four caps. The 24-year-old took four for 42 and two for 21 in the first two matches against Pakistan, dismissing the world’s number one 50-over batsman Babar Azam on both occasions.

One more strong performance at Edgbaston on Tuesday, when England will look to sweep the series 3-0, will only increase his rapidly rising stock and could see him rocket up the pecking order.

“With the squad getting wiped out, the one positive was that we could see guys come who have been on the fringe and, for Saqi, coming in and being the senior bowler has done him the world of good,” Stokes said. “He hasn’t been fazed by anything, he’s been taking the new ball and I’ve asked him to come back on at crucial times in games where he’s performed really well.

“So from an individual point of view it’s done him the world of good and from an England point of view, it’s another player that lads will have to look over their shoulder for.

“Saqi seems to always want the ball in his hands. He loves every minute of it. He loves to be in those situations where he’s expected to be the man to change a game and he’s done it every time he’s bowled for me this series.

“Competition for places is always a great thing to have at any level so when you get a complete new squad and they have put in such performances, that really adds to the expectation that gets put on to the main guys’ shoulders when they come back.”

With the series already won, England have the opportunity to seal a remarkable whitewash. Their two victories so far have been hugely impressive and showcased the depth that English cricket has in the limited overs formats.

Given what has gone before in the series, England are probably the favourites to finish things off with another win. They have outclassed a Pakistan team that has struggled badly with the bat. Although there is plenty of quality in the tourists’ line-up, their top order has failed twice — they have lost their first four wickets for 26 and 53 runs respectively.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2021

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