England v Pakistan, Champions Trophy, semi-final, Cardiff June 14, 2017

Extra rest day could be vital for Pakistan attack


Hasan Ali was celebrating wickets early but by the end of the innings was dealing with a shin injury © Getty Images

Sarfraz Ahmed was hopeful of having a fully fit Pakistan bowling attack for the Champions Trophy final after an accumulation of injuries piled up before and during Wednesday's semi-final. Mohammad Amir was ruled out of the semi-final with a back spasm while Hasan Ali and Imad Wasim picked up niggles in the field during the eight-wicket win against England.

Hasan, who stands as the tournament's leading wicket-taker with 10 scalps after his 3 for 35 in Cardiff, suffered a shin problem while Imad tweaked a calf. They followed Amir having failed a fitness test shortly before the toss after being given an injection to try and overcome the back spasm.

It could have been a major blow to Pakistan, but they barely felt his absence. Debutant Rumman Raees claimed 2 for 44 and the recalled Shadab Khan nabbed the key wicket of Joe Root as a collective display from the bowlers shackled an England batting lineup renowned for its destructive capabilities.

Sarfraz did admit, though, that it would be a boost to have Amir when they face either India or Bangladesh at The Oval. Having played in the first semi-final it means he has an additional day to get healthy before Sunday's final.

"Hopefully, he will recover for the finals," Sarfraz said. "Obviously, he's our main bowler. He's our best strike bowler."

Amir may be considered the main strike bowler, but Hasan has consistently been the pick of the attack and can lay claim to being the bowler of the tournament. Before the final group match against Sri Lanka, Mickey Arthur had called Hasan one of the "beacons" of this Pakistan side and they were sentiments echoed by Sarfraz who praised the youngsters that have come good.

"I think he has a little bit of a shin problem, but he's okay and bowling extremely well for us," Sarfraz said. "I'm very happy about my youngsters performing, especially Hasan who is improving day-by-day, Shadab has also and now Fakhar Zaman, he's playing in his third match and now he's batting just like a champion batsman.

"You cannot overstate how well they've done. We must give credit to the selection committee for selecting these players from the domestic circuit and their performances in the PSL. But even more credit goes to these boys who came into the team under such extreme pressure… Rumman played unexpectedly today but did well. This bodes well for Pakistan cricket's future, since all the young guys that come in perform."

Fakhar has been especially important in helping give Pakistan the rapid starts that have previously eluded them. Although a significant collapse followed against Sri Lanka, which almost cost them a semi-final spot, there were no such alarms against England. His opening partner, Azhar Ali, said Fakhar's freedom alongside him has made a huge difference.

"You are always comfortable with a partner who goes hard up front," Azhar said. "You can take a breather at the other end. The attention of the teams is to stop him and you get comfortable time at the other end so I'm really enjoying batting with him. He's making the most of his good form."

It wasn't a faultless performance in the field with a couple of catches going down in the first half of England's innings, although they were long forgotten by the end as Fakhar pulled off a stunning catch at deep square to remove Moeen Ali and substitute Ahmed Shehzad ran out Adil Rashid with a direct hit. Match-by-match Pakistan's game has come together after the hammering they took in their first match of the tournament against India.

"After the first loss we are very down, but credit goes to the team management," Sarfraz said. "They boosted us really well and credit goes to the players as well. They were very motivated. And after that match we have bowled well, fielded well and today the batting clicked as well."

On the prospect of a rematch with India in the final, Sarfraz smiled and said: "Best of luck to both of them. May the better team win."

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Cricinfouser on June 17, 2017, 23:39 GMT

    High pressure game! The one who can absorb the pressure will win the game

  • Arslan_Rana on June 17, 2017, 9:45 GMT

    @ Asadtirmizi I was being sorta sarcastic with that haha. But yea, the decision is gonna be tough. Look at it this way... 1) spinning track: both imad and shadab will play due to the economy rate of the former and the teasing length of the latter. And since Amir is now fit, perhaps rumman might be out but then again he was very good on debut. But don't forget, India play spin very well.2) seaming track: imad or shadab get dropped. Now you need a strong batting side to play. Again, who will they drop? Prolly Rumman. Now u have 2 reliable spinners including hafeez. In this scenario, toss is crucial.

  • cricfan4668087293 on June 17, 2017, 6:34 GMT

    I think Pakistan should pack their team with seamers who should bowl on or around the off stump. If they win the toss the should bat first.

  • cricfan06340539 on June 16, 2017, 14:58 GMT

    @ Arslan, you are absolutely right that Sarfraz has a bit of a dilemma.... but a good one at that. I would rather have too many bowlers to choose from then not enough. I am surprised that you even mention Hasan Ali in the list of potential seamers to leave out. He has been the star bowler of the tournament. My guess would be Amir (if he's not fully fit), otherwise Rumman for lack of experience. But personally I think he will go without Imad as he already has Hafeez and Malik to fill that role.

  • Arslan_Rana on June 16, 2017, 11:25 GMT

    @DMQI would you still be happy with 4 seamers and 2 spinners if there's no grass on the pitch and it is spin friendly? Pakistan has a few tough calls to make. If it's a 'tired' pitch, then 4 seamers can't possibly play. You'll have to play Imad Wasim. In that case, which seamer will you drop? Hasan? Junaid? Amir? Rumman? Yeah.... tough calls!

  • Arslan_Rana on June 16, 2017, 11:18 GMT

    I think the Oval pitch will be a 'tired' one where there will be no grass left and the ball will spin, just like during the semis. In that case, both Imad and Shadab will have to play. Then which seamer will Pakistan drop? And will it be sensible to drop a spinner and bring in a seamer on such a pitch cuz India plays spin well? Some tough calls!

  • ICCexpert.... on June 16, 2017, 10:48 GMT

    Faheem Ashraf in place of Hafeez. He ca add fire to the batting line

  •   cricfan0437301788 on June 16, 2017, 10:21 GMT

    The crucial matches where Pakistan loss to other team witness the following weakness in Pakistani team:

    1. 2-3 batsmen are run out including stumped out by keeper.

    2. They drop catches

    3. Player like Azhar play negative role to drop down the average

    None of the Indian bowler is a true thread to Pakistan so be confident while batting. Babar Azam will be tested for his nerves on Sunday.

    Pakistani bowlers when beaten, instead of improving they start doing blunders. This was witnessed in last encounter in India where Wahab Riaz showed such a mediocre display of his skills. If India gets a flat track again, they will pile up big score on the card. I wish the wicket has some life in it to support bowlers as well.

  • dmqi on June 16, 2017, 8:16 GMT

    4 pacers and 2 spinners ( 3 with Malik) can give a tough fight. Indian batting is the best without any doubt. Pak batting is uncertain. So Pakistan's only hope is bowl India out. Indian fielding is also better. So Indian advantage in Batting and Fielding, Pak advantage in bowling. Could be a tough fight.

  • cricfan30124514 on June 16, 2017, 7:14 GMT

    I agree with the proposal of going with full fast bowlinng attack with Amir, Junaid, Hassan and Rumman along with Shadab and Hafeez as spin options. Immad should be rested as wont be of any threat to Indian batting line. Management should workout weak channels of all Indian players and must follow strictly while bowling. India must be underpressure of Pakistans recent form and performance. Looking forward for a tough sooper final on Sunday.

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