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Promote Sarfraz, lift aggression: Waqar

Champion quick implores Pakistan to switch up batting order, up their batting ante and include young leggie for CT semi-final

Pakistan legend Waqar Younis has praised for reaching the Champions Trophy semi-finals but has called for a batting-order reshuffle and suggested a more aggressive approach for their showdown with England on Wednesday. 

Of the eight teams in the tournament, Pakistan's ICC ranking is the lowest and were almost universally written off after their 124-run defeat to India in Birmingham.

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But Pakistan bounced back and won their next two games against South Africa and Sri Lanka to qualify for a semi-final clash with hosts England in Cardiff.

And while they've reached the business end of the tournament, Waqar believes his former side has a few issues to address. 

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"There were not much expectations from this team so reaching the semi-final is obviously a big achievement," the two-time Pakistan coach told cricket.com.au. 

"They were a little scrappy in the previous game so there is still a room for improvement but overall they have done well and their performance should be appreciated.



Despite their finals berth, Pakistan have been unconvincing with the bat and don't have any batsman in the top 20 run-scorers from the group stage of the tournament.

While Waqar is happy with the current combination of batsmen, he believes the batting order should be altered to see captain Sarfraz Ahmed and veteran Shoaib Malik shoulder greater responsibility. 

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"We don't have too many batsmen on the bench so I don't think we need a change," the 87-Test veteran explained

"However, I must say that we need to bring some changes in the batting order.

"Mohammad Hafeez is looking out of touch and hasn't been in great form so I feel he can be used at number six and Shoaib Malik who seems to be in a good nick should come at four. Or maybe Sarfraz himself can bat at four." 

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Strike rotation in particular has been an issue with Pakistan's batting in recent years. Their dot-ball percentage in ODIs since 2010 is 52.88. Of the eight Champions Trophy nations, only Bangladesh (53.72) has a higher percentage than Pakistan. 

"Azhar Ali needs to improve and move on," Waqar continued.

"The thing we have been talking about for a long time now is strike rotation. Pakistan can hit fours and sixes but they are still not good at strike rotation." 

"Their dots ball percentage is still on the higher side and that's the area where they need to improve. 

"I am not sure if it can be fixed in a day but that is something they need to talk about."

Hasan's contender for ball of Champions Trophy

Sarfraz batted at number five when Pakistan toured the United Kingdom in 2016 for a five-match ODI series and thrived despite the added responsibility on top of his wicketkeeping. 

He finished the series as the most prolific batsman from either team, scoring 300 runs at an average of 60.00. 

But since becoming captain of the team he has surprisingly demoted himself to number six. 

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Waqar, who has considerable experience playing at Cardiff due to his association with Welsh county outfit Glamorgan in the late 1990s, has meanwhile said leg-spinner Shadab Khan should be recalled at the expense of left-arm tweaker Imad Wasim.

The pitch for the semi-final will be same that was used for the match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka on Monday, therefore spin is likely to play a greater role on a wearing Sophia Gardens surface.

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"Shadab Khan I feel can be very effective in these conditions. The wicket will get slower and the spin will come into play," Waqar said. 

"I have played lot of cricket in Cardiff therefore I have an idea that it helps spinners when there is wear and tear.

"(The pitch) looked a little two-paced and the ball was not coming on to the bat fluently therefore Pakistan need to work out on their strategy according to the pitch conditions.

"Shadab's inclusion should be a must if they are playing on the same wicket. But if it's a different pitch then it's a different story.

"Fahim (Ashraf) was very impressive on his debut. He didn't score much runs but he looked good while batting." 

"It seems as if he has lot of batting potential and I think he is one for the future. Pakistan's future is very bright when you talk about the youngsters." 

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The batting may have let Waqar down but he is happy with the progress of Pakistan's bowling and especially paceman Hasan Ali who, since making his ODI debut in the UK last year, has taken 36 wickets at 24.94, the joint-most by any fast bowler alongside Australia's Mitchell Starc. 

The 23-year-old is also the third leading wicket-taker in the tournament with seven scalps, behind only Liam Plunkett (eight) and Josh Hazlewood (nine). 

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"Hasan has developed himself a lot over the last year. He is becoming really good," Waqar said.

"The reason he is getting better and better is his fitness. The more you work on your fitness the better you become as a player. 

"He is already a very smart bowler. He bowls a good slower one too. Credit should be given to (bowling coach) Azhar Mahmood as well who has been working with him.

"But to beat England you have to match their abilities. If they are playing aggressive cricket then you need to be at par with them too." 


Champions Trophy 2017 Guide

Squads: Every Champions Trophy nation


Schedule


1 JuneEngland beat Bangladesh by eight wickets

2 JuneNew Zealand v Australia, No Result

3 JuneSri Lanka lost to South Africa by 96 runs

4 June – India beat Pakistan by 124 runs

5 JuneAustralia v Bangladesh, No Result

6 JuneEngland beat New Zealand by 87 runs

7 JunePakistan beat South Africa by 19 runs (DLS method)

8 June Sri Lanka beat India by seven wickets

9 June  Bangladesh beat New Zealand by five wickets

10 June England beat Australia by 40 runs (DLS method)

11 JuneIndia beat South Africa by eight wickets

12 JunePakistan beat Sri Lanka by three wickets

14 JuneFirst semi-final (England v Pakistan), Cardiff (D)

15 JuneSecond semi-final (Bangladesh v India), Edgbaston (D)

18 JuneFinal, The Oval (D)


19 June – Reserve day (D)


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