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September 11, 2010
Shahid Afridi believes his Pakistan team can emerge from their scandal-hit tour of England with respect. He has backed the side to build on their improved display in the first one-day international at Chester-le-Street and give the hosts a serious challenge in the remaining four matches.
Although Pakistan lost by 24 runs in Durham - a considerable margin in a game reduced to 41 overs - they didn't roll over as had been the case during the two Twenty20 internationals in Cardiff when the batting, especially, was awful to add to the woes of the spot-fixing controversy.
On Friday Kamran Akmal managed his first half-century of the tour, Umar Akmal hit 43 off 33 balls and Asad Shafiq, who had only arrived 48 hours previously from the A-team tour of Sri Lanka, took Tim Bresnan for four boundaries to threaten a tighter finish.
These are all aspects Afridi is clinging to in the hope that Pakistan can return home with their heads held high despite all the allegations that have been thrown their way since the spot-fixing story broke two weeks ago during the Lord's Test.
"We all want to go home with respect," he said. "We want to play some good cricket and get some victories. I know it's very important for the team. Yesterday the performance was much better, not 100% but I was quite happy with the efforts from the boys and that's what I'm expecting in the next game as well.
"We all know we are playing in a very tough situation but we are trying to forget everything that is going on. The players should focus on the games and as captain I'm trying to keep the morale high. We all know how important this series is for our team and our country."
Even though the three players at the centre of the spot-fixing storm - Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir - are now back in Pakistan, that doesn't mean the issue has moved away from the tour. Wahab Riaz, the left-arm quick who took five wickets on his Test debut at The Oval, will be questioned by police in London next week although Afridi insists he is coping with the pressure and available to play.
"At the moment he is feeling fine," he said. "Let's see what happens when the police investigate him. I really don't know what is going on. I just heard the police want him. But he's feeling okay."
Afridi also asked for the supporters back home to remember that no-one has yet been found guilty of any offences. "The guys are still not guilty and we are waiting for the results. We are good cricketers and want to maintain our respect and that is gained by playing good cricket. The PCB and ICC will take some action if things happened."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at CricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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