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Under-fire Azhar Ali finds positives from his first innings effort in previous Test
Pakistan News

Under-fire Azhar Ali finds positives from his first innings effort in previous Test

Pakistan skipper Azhar Ali has admitted he desperately needs to contribute substantial scores as he has thus far fared rather poorly in the ongoing series against England.

Although he entered the England tour with a century during Pakistan's home season, Azhar's scores in the series read 0, 18 and 20.

Despite not being able to prolong a decent start in the first innings of the Southampton Test last week, Azhar claimed to have regained a bit of confidence in his two-hour stay at the crease.

Azhar battled well under tricky conditions to forge a decent stand with opener Abid Ali but was ultimately undone by a cracking delivery from James Anderson to end his 85-ball vigil.

"I am trying to work on my balance. I was feeling better and more confident in the last match as I had batted for over two hours," the top-order batsman told reporters on the eve of the third Test.

"But sometimes you get a good ball even after you have settled, especially in these conditions. I am trying to build on the confidence from the second Test. I am working on the flaws as much as possible during the series," he added.

Another senior player in the Pakistan squad under heavy scrutiny is Asad Shafiq, who has been dismissed for cheap scores throughout this series. But Azhar dubbed the 34-year-old a "match-winner" and backed him to perform in the crucial contest.

"Right now, the focus is on this Test. Whoever wants to talk, they have a right to have their opinion. As a batsman, it is my responsibility to score runs and Asad is our match-winner and one of the best players in the team.

"As a captain, I and the management is backing him. Both Asad and I have to step up as senior players and contribute more to the batting."

When asked about the burden of captaincy, Azhar responded that he enjoyed leading the players since he harboured camaraderie with each of them.

"I'm lucky to have such a nice bunch of guys who are putting everything in for Pakistan. They're gelled very nicely so they make the job very easy for me and I can focus on the strategies. They're very talented and I'm enjoying it. Hopefully, we can win this Test match and move on from here."

'You can't buy experience without playing'

One repeated notion of concern regarding Pakistan is that the tourists' bowling attack is quite inexperienced compared to their English counterparts.

With Naseem Shah, Shaheen Afridi and to a lesser extent, Mohammad Abbas, still finding their feet on the international level, Azhar called on critics to give the pacers enough time to grow.

Also Read: 'It's the same bowling lineup that won us games at home' - Waqar Younis asks for patience

"We are lucky enough to have exciting fast bowlers, although they are young. You can't buy experience without playing so I think we have to back them. They're bowling really well and putting the opposition under pressure," he commented.

"You can't just sit outside and gain experience. At the end of last year, when we were struggling for fast bowlers when we went to Australia, we picked these guys and they've taken up the challenge and impressed everyone around the world.

"I still feel they are good enough to win us Test matches," he emphasised.

The rain-affected second Test prompted a heated discussion on the umpires' interpretation of the light regulations since players were often forced to leave due to bad light.

In a bid to accommodate overs lost owing to dreary weather, the ECB has decided to backtrack scheduled opening time to 10:30 am in instances where it is required.

"Obviously, the match referee has conveyed the message that ECB has made some changes," Azhar said about this decision.

"For the game itself, we are with it because we want to see maximum amount of cricket being played so we're moving towards that and they have taken us in confidence as well."

While expressing his thoughts on the last Test, Azhar maintained it was easy to blame the umpires and felt they were just looking out for the players on the field.

"It's frustrating but on the other hand, the umpire's job is not easy," he said.

"They have to keep a balance between bat and ball so that's why their job becomes tough. Everyone wants to see cricket but they have to consider safety as well. Whatever time will be lost, they are trying to compensate for it in the morning or the evening if the forecast is clear."