Sharjeel, Maqsood impress Whatmore
Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore has affirmed the promise of batsmen Sharjeel Khan and Sohaib Maqsood ahead of the second ODI against Sri Lanka. Sharjeel stroked a run-a-ball 61 in Sharjah to set Pakistan's commanding total in motion, before Maqsood consolidated his team's advantage alongside Mohammad Hafeez in the middle overs, hitting 73 from 68.
They were impressive hands from Sharjeel, on debut, and Maqsood, in his sixth ODI, and although Whatmore was careful not to overstate their potential, he lauded their hunger, as well as their intent at the crease.
"It was a very good innings by Maqsood. He's somebody that's shown the selectors and myself that he wants to play," Whatmore said. "When you lose eight to ten kilos in a relatively short space of time, that's a big effort. Just on that alone I reckon it was worth selecting him. He's rewarded us with some terrific performances.
"Sharjeel debuted yesterday, but in my pre-match talk at the ground, I completely forgot it was his debut because I got the feeling he's been around so much recently in the T20s. We eventually all congratulated him and he showed the sort of potential that he has. I'm not going to say he's going to be a great player, but he's got the potential to be a very good contributor. I'm pleased with that.
"Sohaib Maqsood happens to tell me Sharjeel is his childhood friend. During Sharjeel's innings, Maqsood sat next to me and gave some useful predictions about this kid. They were both very true - on the money. It's good that each of these guys know each other's games."
Whatmore also praised Hafeez for his 122, which held the Pakistan's innings together. Hafeez struggled for batting form in home and away series against South Africa, and had not crossed 35 in his eight previous ODI innings.
"Hafeez was really keen yesterday to get back amongst the runs," Whatmore said. "He's been a very good contributor in some ways. He had a lean patch against South Africa and was very keen to get back into runs - you might have seen his celebration after the hundred. To me, Hafeez is an automatic selection because he is a multi-dimensional player - the sort we need more of in Pakistan."
Whatmore said the option of batting Hafeez lower down his customary No. 3 had been brought up within the team but he expressed confidence that Hafeez could contribute from anywhere in the side.
"There has been some discussion about dropping him down the order, particularly when he wasn't getting runs against South Africa, which was a disappointment for him, more than anything else. But he knows what I think and I speak to him directly. I think he's got many, many more years to serve the country and whether he does it successfully at number three or whether he does it successfully lower in the order is something somebody else will have to agree on, because I finish in the next few weeks. He's certainly a valuable player for Pakistan."
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. He tweets here