Pakistan pride at stake against Proteas

Sarfraz Ahmed (AFP)
Sarfraz Ahmed (AFP)

Birmingham - Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed insisted his side could bounce back in their Champions Trophy match against South Africa at Edgbaston on Wednesday just days after a humiliating defeat by arch-rivals India at the Birmingham ground.

Pakistan's crushing 124-run loss to the title-holders on Sunday saw them outplayed in all aspects of the game.

Yet, worryingly for Pakistan, there is the potential for an even more lopsided match against South Africa - and that's not simply because the Proteas are top of the International Cricket Council (ICC) one-day international rankings, while Sarfraz's side are eighth.

Now, in the space of just a few days, Pakistan must somehow raise their game to beat a South Africa side who defeated Sri Lanka by 96 runs at the Oval on Saturday in their opening Group B fixture if they are to have any chance of reaching the semi-finals.

"I think the mood is OK," Sarfraz told reporters at Edgbaston on Tuesday. "A little disappointed after they lost the match, but now the mood is okay. The guys are really focused on the next match."

Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur suggested too many Pakistan players had suffered 'stage fright' against India in front of a capacity crowd of more than 24 000.

"My issue is fear," said Arthur, a former coach of both his native South Africa and Australia. "My issue is getting out there and really looking to take the game on.

"The worrying thing for me... is we just do the basics wrong.

"We drop simple catches. We don't run well enough between wickets. We don't understand when to bowl our variations."

Wicketkeeper Sarfraz accepted the tension of taking part in cricket's most high-profile match had affected the younger members of his side especially.

"I think India-Pakistan was a big match. A couple of youngsters was playing their first match against India. Maybe they feel a bit of pressure," he said.

Pakistan will be without Wahab Riaz after he was ruled out of the rest of the tournament on Monday with an ankle injury sustained when falling in his delivery stride against India.

But given by that stage the left-arm paceman had conceded a whopping 87 runs in 8.4 wicketless overs, his absence may not be that big a blow.

Pakistan have brought in Rumman Raes as a replacement but Sarfraz said Junaid Khan, already with the squad, would come in for Wahab after taking four for 73 in a warm-up match against Bangladesh.

"Obviously Wahab is not playing. Junaid Khan is in," confirmed Sarfraz.

Mohammad Amir provided rare moments of respite amid the India run-spree with a return of none for 32 in 8.1 overs.

Yet, concerningly, the left-arm fast bowler was unable to complete his full allocation of overs because of cramp, despite being repeatedly on and off the field on what was a cool day.

Despite a fine hundred by South Africa's Hashim Amla, Sri Lanka were well-placed to chase down a target of 300 at 116 for two.

But Pakistan-born leg-spinner Imran Tahir's return of four for 27 turned the tide the Proteas' way.

The cliche of Pakistani 'unpredictability' may be wearing thin, at least in one-day international cricket.

South Africa, however, have a nasty habit of not realising their potential in ICC events.

But skipper AB de Villiers emphasised Tuesday how the present-day Proteas wanted to "stay in the moment".

"If we live in the past, there's lots of scars that we can think of, lots of bad experiences," he explained.

"So it's just wise to try and stay in the moment with what you're confronted with at the very time."

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