Tue, Jul 13, 2010 - Page 18 News List

Afridi challenges Pakistan to build on Twenty20 wins

AFP , LONDON

Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi has challenged his side to build on last week’s Twenty20 wins over Australia in the two-Test series between the countries that starts at Lord’s today.

Pakistan failed to win a single international match on a tour of Australia concluded this year, sparking a series of bans and fines imposed on several players by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

The fall-out meant a youthful squad arrived in England without its two leading Test batsmen in former captains Mohammad Yousuf and Younus Khan, who both had disciplinary action taken against them by the PCB, but the way Pakistan beat Australia in back-to-back Twenty20s at Edgbaston suggests a bowling attack featuring Umar Gul and teenage left-arm quick Mohammad Aamer, set to be bolstered by leg-spinner Danish Kaneria and paceman Mohammad Asif, will pose problems.

However, the key factor in determining the outcome of the series is whether Pakistan’s batsmen can score enough runs. If they can, they could yet triumph in a series being played in England after top-class international cricket in Pakistan was suspended following last year’s armed attack on Sri Lanka’s team bus in Lahore.

Leg-spinning all-rounder Afridi, who hasn’t played Test cricket since 2006 in order to concentrate on one-day formats, became captain despite being penalized himself for biting the ball in Australia.

Nevertheless, it appears his side are rallying behind him.

“I think now we have regained our winning habit, we must work harder to maintain it,” Afridi said.

He admitted, however, that Yousuf and Younus had left a large hole in Pakistan’s top order.

“Obviously, we will miss their experience, but right now I am focusing completely on the team I have,” Afridi said. “They are the ones who will fight for Pakistan in the Test matches and I retain confidence they can do this.”

In the absence of Yousuf and Younus, who both average more than 50 in Tests, the only member of the Pakistan top six who averages more than 40 is the gifted Umar Akmal — and he has played just six Tests.

“I think their depth is going to be tested,” Australia’s Michael Hussey said. “You take Younus Khan and Mohammad Yousuf out of that team and you’re losing two outstanding, classy players. That’s going to be a big loss, particularly in the Test match arena.”

“It’s going to be very hard to find those runs that those guys consistently score in Test match cricket, but their bowling attack looks outstanding. They’re very well balanced and they cover all bases very well,” he said.

Pakistan who, if the Twenty20s are any guide, can be assured of vocal backing from British-based supporters, are embarking upon a run of six Tests in seven weeks, with four matches in England against their hosts after the Australia series.

“It is a very hectic schedule,” Pakistan coach Waqar Younis said. “It is a tough tour for the youngsters, but also a learning tour for them. In many ways, it is like a restart for Pakistan.”

It is also a landmark series as it will be the first time Tests in England have not featured the England team since a 1912 triangular tournament, where Australia and South Africa made up the three competing teams.

Both Australia wicket­keeper Tim Paine, deputizing for the injured Brad Haddin, and leg-spinner Steven Smith are likely to make their Test debuts at Lord’s.

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