Former skipper Shahid Afridi has backed Pakistan to overcome the Australian challenge and clinch their first-ever series victory down under. Even though Misbah-ul-Haq’s team are 0-1 down in the series after losing the Brisbane Test, the 36-year old believes that they can ride on the momentum generated by their commendable effort in the fourth-innings.
“We have a great chance of finally winning a series in Australia. Pakistan showed great fight in the first Test, particularly (Asad) Shafiq who scored an outstanding century. The Brisbane performance will definitely lift spirits.
“The tracks in Melbourne and Sydney suit the team. Both Pakistan’s batsmen and bowlers will get help from the conditions and I am backing the team to win both the matches”, the mercurial all-rounder was quoted as saying to The Express Tribune.
Pakistan are currently on a four-match losing streak with the 5-wicket defeat against West Indies at Sharjah followed by a 0-2 whitewash in New Zealand and the 39-run loss at the Gabba. They were staring at a much bigger defeat in Brisbane after capsizing to 142 in the first innings in response to Australia’s 429. The hosts did not enforce the follow-on and set an improbable chase of 490.
The writing was almost on the wall when the visitors were reduced to 220/6. However, Asad Shafiq rallied hard with the lower-order to send some shivers down Australian spines. While he completed a remarkable century, the likes of Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Yasir Shah also contributed to the team’s cause.
Needing 41 runs with two wickets in hand, Shafiq was not able to survive a searing delivery from Mitchell Starc. Yasir’s lack of match awareness was pounced upon by Smith and Australia had sneaked home by a thin margin.
When asked about the key performer for Pakistan in the next two games, Afridi pointed towards Amir who had made his much awaited international comeback under the leg-spinner’s captaincy earlier this year.
He insisted, “I backed Amir’s selection for the World T20 since I felt he could be an asset for us. I have supported Amir because he showed remorse for his actions. I think he’s improving and did a fine job both with bat and ball in Brisbane. He can hopefully make an even bigger and match-winning contribution in the last two Tests.”
The second Test is scheduled to begin in Melbourne on Boxing Day. In order to reduce the workload of their seam bowlers, Australia have added Hilton Cartwright to the squad. The uncapped all-rounder stands a substantial chance to break into the playing eleven in place of Nic Maddinson.