KARACHI: Former captain Shahid Afridi believes Pakistan have a great chance of clinching their first-ever series victory in Australia despite being 1-0 down in the three-match series.
The visitors lost the first Test by 39 runs in Brisbane but won hearts for their brave fightback, with Asad Shafiq scoring a gallant 137-run knock as Pakistan almost pulled off a mammoth 490-run-chase.
The two sides will now meet in Melbourne in the famed Boxing Day Test before moving to Sydney for the final game, and Afridi feels the team can conquer Australia in both matches.
“We have a great chance of finally winning a series in Australia,” the star all-rounder told The Express Tribune. “Pakistan showed great fight in the first Test, particularly Shafiq who scored an outstanding century. The Brisbane performance will definitely lift spirits.”
Afridi feels Pakistan will enjoy the conditions during the next two Tests. “The tracks in Melbourne and Sydney suit the team,” he said. “Both Pakistan’s batsmen and bowlers will get help from the conditions and I am backing the team to win both the matches.”
Afridi also backed Muhammad Amir to play a match-winning role in the series, standing by the pacer who has received flak for failing to repeat past performances since his return to international cricket.
“I backed Amir’s selection [as a captain] for the World T20 since I felt he could be an asset for us,” revealed the Pakistan star. “I have supported Amir because he showed remorse for his actions. I think he’s improving and did a fine job both with bat and ball in Brisbane. He can hopefully make an even bigger and match-winning contribution in the last two Tests.”
Afridi also feels left-handed opener Sharjeel Khan can be a success in the longest format of the game, despite his aggressive game.
“I wanted Sharjeel in the side after he scored that century against Peshawar Zalmi in the Pakistan Super League (PSL),” said Afridi. “I believe he’s a fine player who can blossom at the Test level too.”
PSL the next big assignment from Afridi
The 36-year-old, who is yet to announce his retirement from the T20I format, said he is now focused on the second edition of the PSL after his stint with the Rangpur Riders at the recently-concluded Bangladesh Premier League, where he claimed 17 wickets and scored 119 runs in 11 matches.
Afridi said his meeting with Pakistan Cricket Board’s Executive Committee Chairman Najam Sethi over a farewell match for the star all-rounder has been postponed.
“Right now I am fully concentrated on preparing for the PSL and on putting up a strong performance for Peshawar Zalmi,” he said. “I am happy with how I bowled in the BPL but as a batsman I would have loved to have contributed more.”
‘Would love the PSL final in Lahore’
The seasoned all-rounder also praised PSL’s organisers for trying to host the final in Lahore, hoping that if Zalmi reach that stage then all their foreign players will take part in it.
“The foreign players who were with us last season thoroughly enjoyed the league and we formed a great bond,” he said. “Hopefully, the situation in the country will be stable enough for us to hold the final when the time arrives.”