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'Our pacers can trouble any batting lineup in the world' – Azhar Ali
Pakistan News

'Our pacers can trouble any batting lineup in the world' – Azhar Ali

Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali has stated that the pace trio of Shaheen Afridi, Naseem Shah and Mohammad Abbas has the talent to vanquish any opposition.

Speaking ahead of the team's departure for the England tour, Azhar claimed his fast bowlers had "improved" vastly and had harboured the dynamic outlook required to succeed in Test cricket.

"If we reflect on our line-up, the way our fast bowlers have improved has been tremendous," he told reporters in a virtual press conference on Saturday.

"The way Shaheen has bowled, any team will look up to him. Naseem Shah bowls with steep pace and we also have Abbas, who is an experienced candidate.

"Additionally, we have youngsters thus we have a lot of bowling options, but these three pacers, in particular, can trouble any batting line-up.”

Also Read: 'If England treat me like a small kid, it will be their big loss' - Naseem Shah

Abbas had a fruitful outing the last time he visited England in 2018, managing to wreck the hosts' batting with eight wickets at Lord's as Pakistan marched to a commanding win.

On the other hand, Naseem and Shaheen are yet to feature in a Test in Britain creating fears of an inexperienced line-up. Besides Abbas, only Faheem Ashraf and Sohail Khan have played a Test in England among the pace bowlers at Azhar's disposal from the 20-man squad with the latter picking up two five-wicket hauls on the 2016 tour.

Also Read: 'Will keep a close eye on the England-West Indies series' - Shaheen Afridi

While shifting his focus on Pakistan's batting, Azhar maintained his side were coming off a string of special performances at home against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

A total of eight centuries were scored by the Pakistan batters across the three Tests in Rawalpindi and Karachi as the top-order effortlessly dominated the bowlers.

“I have full confidence in our batting stocks too since they are riding high from a productive home series," Azhar said.

"A number of players scored centuries [against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh] so we will try to continue that consistency and utilize the confidence in England. Once you put on 300+ there, you are in a good position to win the match.”

'England's bowling attack is no different from the one we've faced in the past'

Shedding light on England's strengths, Azhar believed their bowling attack was not quite dissimilar to the ones he has grown accustomed to barring the exception of Jofra Archer.

Reiterating the point of Pakistan's batting consistency in recent times, the 35-year-old referenced his team's Test victories whilst battling the same core group of bowlers.

“England have a great bowling attack no doubt, especially in their conditions they perform very well. But aside from Jofra Archer, it’s the same attack against whom we have won matches."

"Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Chris Woakes, Ben Stokes and even Mark Wood were part of the line-up," he pointed out.

Azhar also addressed the chain of events over the past week relating to the coronavirus testing that has had a major impact on the final composition of the first group of travellers for the tour.

As many as 10 players tested positive for the virus in the first round of testing as six of them later returned negative results on Saturday.

Talking about getting used to this process, Azhar remarked: “[Covid-19] testing is now a part and parcel of the game. We will get used to it soon. Obviously, these were the first couple of tests and once you enter a “bio-secure” environment, it will be a totally different scenario."

"Till now we were at home and as we stayed in the hotel for the past few days, we started to feel more secure. The board has utilized the best facilities and we hope the tour would proceed smoothly."

Although the alarming number of Covid-19 positive players raises the question of diminished resources, only two of the 10 cricketers – Mohammad Rizwan and Shadab Khan – can arguably be classed as first-choice Test players.

Reacting to their exclusion, Azhar sounded hopeful as he felt the duo could soon rejoin the team since they had plenty of time before the first Test.

“There is a chance that they might join. [Shadab and Rizwan] are undoubtedly important members of the team and are currently asymptomatic. Doctors and medical staff expect them to recover quickly so hopefully, they will soon join our team."