Asad helps ease Pakistan’s batting woes

COLOMBO: Asad Shafiq had a good workout in the nets here at the P Sara Oval and later received a vote of confidence from his captain Shahid Afridi who believes that the youngster will give Pakistan’s batting the sort of stability it will need in the knockout stage of the World Cup.

The 25-year-old Asad hit a timely 78 (not out) on his World Cup debut to shepherd Pakistan to a seven-wicket triumph over Zimbabwe on Monday at Pallekele — a result that has placed the 1992 champions in the last-eight stage of the World Cup.

“Asad has eased our batting headache,” said Afridi, who was worried about his team’s batting form in the match against Canada and New Zealand against whom the Pakistanis were bowled out for 184 and 192 respectively.

“Asad has shown the sort of temperament you need at the top of your batting order and I’m sure that he will strengthen our side in big games,” he said.

Pakistan had a strenous training session after a day’s rest with rookie fast bowler Junaid Khan being the only player who didn’t attend it. Junaid, who is yet to play a World Cup game, missed training because he is suffering from a stomach problem.

Afridi said that he and his players are in good rhythm and will give a forceful showing against defending champions Australia when the two sides meet in their key Pool A clash here at the R Premadasa Stadium on March 19.

It’s a big match for both Pakistan and Australia mainly because the team winning it will top the group and will meet the fourth-placed team from Pool B in the quarterfinals.

“It’s a big match for my boys because they know that by beating Australia, they will go into the knockout phase with a lot of confidence,” said Afridi.

The flamboyant allrounder is also hoping to regain his golden form against the Aussies. Afridi took 14 wickets in Pakistan’s first three World Cup games but has been able to add just two more to the tally in the last two matches.

“I’m confident about my form and am looking forward to giving my best against Australia,” he said.