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Pakistan captain Sarfraz plays down ‘favourites’ tag
Agnelo Rodrigues October 26, 2017
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ABU DHABI: Coming on the back of a dominant performance in the One-Day Internationals (ODIs), Pakistan go as favourites into the Twenty20 International series against Sri Lanka, which gets underway in Abu Dhabi on Thursday. But captain Sarfraz Ahmed refuses to underestimate the opponents.

“T20 is one format where you can’t say that one team is favourite. They have a new team but in T20 whichever team plays well on a given day and makes the match interesting is the winner,” said Ahmed on Wednesday.

“Our focus is on the first match of the series as it is always important to start on a high and then target the remaining matches.”

The home side has been clinical throughout the preceding ODI series beating the Lankans in every department in every match in the 5-0 rout.

And going into the series the strong Pakistani bowling side is further strengthened with the inclusion of left-arm fast bowler Mohammad Amir who was ruled out of the one-day series with a shin injury.

Spin all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez, who was dropped for the World XI series is also making a comeback and Ahmed Shehzad, who was dropped following his failures in the two ODIs with forgettable scores of 0 and 8, retains his place.

“Amir is back and he is back after recovering from injury and definitely our bowling will be more stronger. Ahmed couldn’t get runs in the ODIs but if you see the pervious T20 series he played good cricket.

“I have full confidence in him and our team management also has the confidence that he will do well. In all probability he will open for us tomorrow and will display the same form he showed in Lahore (against World XI) with an 89.

Hopefully with his batting he will win us the match tomorrow,” added the wicket-keeper batsman.

Apart from winning nine straight ODIs since lifting the Champions Trophy in June, Pakistan have also won nine of their last 11 Twenty20 internationals — all since Sarfraz Ahmed took over as captain and he hopes to continue that momentum and lift the trophy on home turf in Lahore where the three-match series concludes on Oct 29.

“We are very happy because we will be playing at home and if we can go on to lift the trophy in front of home fans then nothing like it.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka with Thisara Perera debuting as the skipper alongside a few new faces is also looking for a turnaround “It is a new challenge for me, and my team.

“I will give this challenge 100 per cent for my country,” said Perera. The all-rounder Perera who replaced regular T20 skipper Upul Tharanga, though has a tough task at hand as he takes to the field with a depleted squad after some of the senior players refused to travel to Pakistan for the final tie over security fears.

“We have good talent, young players. I think we can do something special in this series. I believe in my team and think we can give a good challenge for the Pakistan team. In this kind of team, I believe we can do something special, better than the ODIs,” added the 28-year-old.

Pulling out of the series alongside Tharanga was Chamara Kapugedera who also was in the team bus when terrorists launched an attack back on the team in 2009.

And with the Lanka cricket board turning down on a request to name a different squad for the Lahore match, pacer Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, Milinda Siriwardene and Akila Dananjaya were made ineligible.

Apart from the T20 regulars in Dilshan Munaweera, Isuru Udana and Chathuranga de Silva, the selectors have recalled Danushka Gunathilaka, who served a suspension for a breach of discipline and Dasun Shanka from the ‘A’ side in the 15-member squad.

“This is a good opportunity for everyone. If we do perform well, this can be a turning point in their lives. I want to give them big confidence to do their best,” said Perara.

The first T20 at Sheikh Zayed Stadium gets underway at 8pm on Thursday which will be followed by the second on Friday at the same time and venue.

pakistan team feted

Moazzam Ahmad Khan, Ambassador of Pakistan to UAE, hosted a luncheon to honour the winning Pakistan cricket team at his official residence in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

The Ambassador welcomed the cricketers and management of the team.

He felicitated all team members for showing team spirit and professionalism during the recently concluded ODI series against Sri Lanka.

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