Babar banking on pacers to give England “a tough time”

PAKISTAN IN ENGLAND 2020

Babar said the likes of Naseem Shah, Shaheen Afridi and Mohammad Abbas will be crucial for Pakistan's chances.

Babar said the likes of Naseem Shah, Shaheen Afridi and Mohammad Abbas will be crucial for Pakistan’s chances. © PCB

Babar Azam, Pakistan’s ODI and T20I skipper, said the team is shaping up well for the upcoming series against England and they are enjoying their training session ahead of the three Tests and three T20Is. Pakistan are currently training and isolating at Worcestershire’s New Road with a 20-member unit while six more cricketers, who tested negative for COVID-19 for a second time in three days, are set to join the team on Friday.

With the COVID-19 situation denying any cricketing action for three months, Babar admitted that the players were sceptical when they turned up to practice but things are falling into place for them in terms of preparation.

“The best thing is that all the players are fit and in shape. We were sceptical when we turned to practice after three months, but the players have applied themselves well. Everyone is following the protocol. Most importantly, we are enjoying it. There was a lot of uncertainty before coming here but now it’s all settled and we are focusing on training and utilising the conditions,” Babar said in a video interaction with the media on Thursday (July 2), adding that they are adjusting to the safety precautions on and off the field.

“Of course some things have changed. You have to keep a distance, you have to follow the rules. You can’t go out. Not everyone can go to the gym together; only in groups of six. You can’t shine the ball except with sweat. These things take time to adjust. We have done this for 2-3 days so far and will try to adhere to this going forward also.”

Despite the challenges in England combined with their average numbers in overseas Tests in recent years, Babar is confident that the Pakistan team will be up to the task when the series gets underway, choosing to reflect on their past performances in England where they drew the series on the last two occasions.

“(The) last few series have been challenging but now the efforts will be towards winning this series, set a nice tone and perform well going forward,” said Babar. “We drew the last two series. In our last home series also, we did well. We have taken that confidence and come here. There’s a lot of hunger in our players. We are playing after such a long time and everyone’s hungry, and everyone’s giving 110 per cent. All we are speaking about is cricket, how to play their bowlers, how to take care of the ball, etc.”

While agreeing that the England bowlers will have “a slight edge”, Babar also spoke highly of Pakistan’s bowling attack – pointing to the likes of Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah – which he said would give the hosts “a tough time”.

“The conditions here suit England, so they have a slight edge. But if you see our bowling line-up, Shaheen Shah and Mohammad Abbas form a nice senior-junior combination. Abbas knows these conditions very well; he’s played many county games also. Naseem Shah has been performing outstandingly as well — did that in Australia and then against Sri Lanka. I feel we will give England a tough time,” said Babar.

With cricket returning after a lengthy break, and new guidelines being issued by the ICC, England’s series against West Indies will give the hosts a good opportunity to get a feel of things playing the game in a new environment. Babar, meanwhile, chose to downplay any advantage that England might have, saying that the Pakistan team will be following everything closely.

“We will see the matches and see how they are taking care of the ball, and we will pick things from there. We will also play matches in our squad, so that will have us good to go against England,” Babar said.

© Fame Dubai

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