A 4-0 series scoreline against Sri Lanka and consistent performances since the 2017 Champions Trophy are testimony to the fact that the Pakistan bowling attack has grown into one of the best in the world, according to their captain Sarfraz Ahmed.
Speaking to the media after his side completed a seven-wicket drubbing of Sri Lanka on Friday, Sarfraz credited the success to the contributions of bowlers like Hasan Ali, who is now ranked No. 1 by the ICC, and a settled core of players for limited-overs cricket.
Pakistan's recent performances attest to the potency of their attack. Since the opening match of the Champions Trophy against India, where they conceded 319, the highest total they have conceded is 236. Their opponents in this period have included South Africa, England, India and Sri Lanka, and they have beaten them all.
In the ongoing series, apart from Hasan, legspinner Shadab Khan and fast bowler Rumman Raees have also impressed in the opportunities they have been given, with Shadab even contributing a crucial half-century in the second ODI. In the matches before his bowling action was reported as suspect, Mohammad Hafeez was miserly, bowling at an economy rate of 3.30.
"Yes, you can say that," Sarfraz said, when asked if he considered his bowling attack the best in the world. "The way the bowlers have been performing since the Champions Trophy, we have bowled teams out for 240-230 and then chased them down well. Here, too, we are bowling well and chasing well. We should praise the bowlers, especially Hasan Ali, who is improving day by day. He is now the world No. 1 so I wish he keeps that and does well to win us matches. Shadab is doing well and so have Usman Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Rumman Raees and Junaid Khan. The bowlers are doing well and importantly our bench is getting strong."
Hasan's growth as a bowler this year has provided an immense boost. The 23-year-old is currently the highest wicket-taker of 2017, has the most five-fors in the year so far (3) and was the Player of the Series at the Champions Trophy with 13 dismissals. In four matches against Sri Lanka, he has taken 12 wickets and Sarfraz lauded the bowler's mindset and his commitment to self-improvement.
"The best thing is that he bowls in an attacking manner, he tries to take wickets, tries learn with Azhar Mahmood [Pakistan's bowling coach] and does his homework, asks other players how to bowl," he said. "He asks me and my target is to get wickets through him. He attacks, and with every wicket, he is getting better and better."
Sarfraz felt the team atmosphere was well-balanced, with the selectors picking good players and the team management aiming to lift the confidence of the newcomers.
"I will first give selectors the credit, they chose good players and our effort is that, whoever we play, we should give them confidence and tell them to play like they do in domestic matches. The best thing is that they are playing with confidence and whoever plays gives an impact. As far as seniors are concerned, they play their roles. We have two seniors and they are doing their roles and whenever they get a chance they motivate the players and contribute in performance."