Azhar is confident Pakistan will do well in England

From our correspondent 

LAHORE: Pakistan’s Test captain Azhar Ali on Saturday said that they would try to not only repeat their previous solid performances in England but would try to further improve them.

“Always England tour has been challenging but our last performances are encouraging. And we will try to not only repeat them but to also improve them,” Azhar told a teleconference.

“Our 2016 tour was fairly good. The 2018 tour was good as we won Champions Trophy and then in the World Cup although we could not reach semi-finals but we played good cricket. In England we always have given memorable performances. England crowd always have been supportive as Pakistanis there come in large numbers. Although they would not be there this time with us but we will try to extend extraordinary performances to entertain them and give them memorable moments of cricket which they follow,” Azhar said.

Pakistan team is scheduled to fly out of Lahore for England Sunday morning to play three Tests and the same number of T20 International in August-September.

Azhar was very happy that finally cricket is being resumed after tough challenges due to Covid-19.
It’s a matter of great happiness especially for all the players and after all the wait finally we are travelling to England,” Azhar said. “There were many challenges before but thanks God cricket is resuming. Players are excited and hungry for cricket as so many youngsters are also present. It was very tough when we were staying idle and were unable to play cricket which we adore and it was indeed a difficult phase,” the skipper said.

Responding to a question Azhar said that they will plan according to the conditions. 
“Yes the wickets there also help seamers and we have in our squad such bowlers who are too young but can seam the ball well. We will see the conditions and accordingly we will plan. If you see our selection we have kept different options so that we could play combinations according to actual conditions,” the right-handed batsman said.

Azhar hoped that their key players  leggie Shadab Khan and stumper Mohammad Rizwan would join them.
“Yes both Shadab and Rizwan have the chance to join the team. I have talked to both and they are asymptomatic and doctors and medical staff are hopeful that they both will recover quickly and will join us as both are very important players,” Azhar added.

Azhar said they are used to playing in front of empty stadium unlike England which would be an advantage for them when they would face England in closed doors.

“We will try our best to entertain fans all over the world who want to witness cricket. Challenges are there without audience. But we are ready for everything. As far as crowd is concerned so we are used to play in front of the empty stadium. We have played our home cricket in Dubai for ten years and there the venues mostly were empty. And here in domestic cricket too mostly we play in empty stadium unlike England and this would be an advantage for us that we are used to such conditions,” Azhar pointed out.

Azhar admitted that it was challenging to keep fitness during Covid-19, adding all players are in top shape..

“As a professional it was challenging to keep oneself fit during this period. You have to follow guidelines and doing training. Most of the players established gyms at their homes but still they could not do training. And slowly we sought places where we could run. But it’s a moment of great happiness that all are in top shape. As far as practice is concerned so we will get chance in England,” Azhar said.

“Our main aim was to keep ourselves fit and when cricket will resume we will work on our skills, bowlers will work on skills and workload. I think one month period is enough for training in England,” he was quick to add.

Azhar said that Pakistan’s coaching staff has the experience of playing county cricket and this will definitely help them. 

He said that still sweat could be used for shining the ball.
“ I am sure still you can use sweat on the ball. Still we will be able to shine the ball. In such situation there is a chance that the ball will get reverse quickly. We will get the actual idea there by practicing and also watching the West Indies team playing against England. It will be premature to determine that the conditions would be batting friendly.I still know that batting there still has been a challenge as Duke ball will seam as its seam is too prominent and new ball will keep the batsmen in trouble,” he said.

When asked about his own batting performances Azhar said, “.In the last two series I have been feeling well and have also scored a century. So confidence has been regained but again break came. I will try to perform as consistently as I had been doing in the past. I will try to forget the last one and a half year and focus on my batting and captaincy separately. I will try to inspire the team through match-wining performances and to lead from the front,” Azhar said.

Azhar hopes that their pace trio could damage any batting line-up.
“England bowling attack, no doubt, is very good and in these conditions they have the best attack. Barring Archer we have won matches against such an attack which England have. In batting since the retirement of Cook their top order has been fragile. They used different combinations and now they have started showing a bit improvement in their top order and their Test team is gaining stability. If you look at our team so the way our fast bowlers have improved it’s fantastic. The way Shaheen Afridi has improved is a big plus. We have Naseem Shah who bowls with pace and we have the experience of Abbas. The trio can produce problems for any sort of batting line up,” Azhar said.. 

“Once we will put there 300 plus then we will stand the chance to win. We are going there from a good home series in which several batsmen scored centuries and will try to keep with the same momentum in English conditions,” Azhar conceded.

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