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ICC World Cup 2019, England vs Pakistan: Desperate Pakistan promise chin music

Expect raw pace and some chin music on Monday, warned Pakistan’s bowling coach Azhar Mahmood, even though Nottingham hold the record of the two highest ODI scores.

cricket Updated: Jun 03, 2019 12:24 IST
Somshuvra Laha
Somshuvra Laha
Hindustan Times, Nottingham
ICC World Cup 2019,England vs Pakistan,Babar Azam
Pakistan's captain Sarfaraz Ahmed (4L) leads his players in prayer as they take part in a training session at Trent Bridge in Nottingham(AFP)

Towards the far right of the Radcliffe Road End of the Trent Bridge, on a practice pitch that hasn’t been mowed down to a threadbare grass cover like the centre wickets, Pakistan openers Imam-ul-Haq and Babar Azam keep alternating the batting end. Darting balls at them from different angles are Pakistan support staff members, clearly sticking to the brief of not bowling a comfortable length. Cast over them are Nottingham’s unpredictable skies that become gloomy within minutes before the sun tries to break through. “Ball nazar aa raha hai tujhe sahi (Can you see the ball?)” Imam asks Azam before ducking properly under a bouncer. Azam looks irritated too, till he hits one from the middle of his bat. “Yeh bhi chauka (This one’s a boundary too),” he muttered.

This isn’t the subcontinent where lights come on easily at the insistence of batsmen, not at least in white-ball cricket. With the ball zipping off pitches, the probability of edging the ball, or worse, taking eyes off it, multiplies. Now isn’t the time to get the basics like ‘watching the ball till the end’ right. Pakistan know that well. And so like the combative side that they become when pushed to the wall in tournaments like the World Cup, Pakistan have turned their sights on getting England’s batsmen cheaply. Expect raw pace and some chin music on Monday, warned Pakistan’s bowling coach Azhar Mahmood, even though Nottingham hold the record of the two highest ODI scores --- 481/6 against Australia in 2018 and 444/3 against Pakistan in 2016. England won both matches by record margins.


Mahmood bristled at suggestions that maybe England could get another walkover here. “We know we have the ability. They (England) have skill, and they are the best batting lineup. The 480 pitch has been a world record pitch, but they have to play 300 balls to get to that record. We know we have to bowl 10 good balls to get 10 wickets. We have the skills to do that, and hopefully we can do it tomorrow,” he said.

Mahmood’s confidence was baffling, considering how Pakistan were rolled over by West Indies in the last game. A win against England would be no less than an upset but Mahmood believes the stakes are placed wrong. “We can beat them. It’s not an upset. We have ability to beat them. If you see the one-day series, we were not that far from England. They scored 1430-odd runs, we scored 1370 runs, so we were 70 runs short. Unfortunately our fielding was not up to the mark and we give bonus because we have a young and inexperienced bowling lineup. They need to learn from their mistakes. So we know what England can do, and we know what we can do,” he said.

Pakistan’s bowling, whatever opportunity it got against West Indies, showed promise. Especially Mohammed Amir, who went on to take all three West Indies wickets. But Mahmood sees more into that brief display of bowling. “At least we bowled a lot of short balls and we mixed that up, so definitely we can do that. We have got bowlers who can bowl 140-plus, so they can do the same thing to England batters,” said Mahmood.

These words point towards a possible change in team composition. Most likely Mohammad Hasnain --- the tearaway teenager from Hyderabad --- may come in for Imad Wasim, meaning Pakistan could be fielding a four-man pace attack.

First Published: Jun 03, 2019 11:51 IST