Azhar Ali. (Photo credit: Mark Brake/Getty Images)
KARACHI: Pakistan captain Azhar Ali believes that his team can defeat England in their own backyard in the upcoming three-match Test series if the batting unit clicks to post 300-plus totals.
The first Test begins at Lord’s on July 30, and the team leaves for the tour on Sunday with 20 players and 11 support staff, even as six out of the 10 coronavirus-infected cricketers returned negative when they were tested the second time.
“I think that if our batting can put together totals around 300 or more we have the potential to beat England. On recent tours we have made strong comebacks and done well there,” Ali said at a media interaction a day before the team’s departure on a chartered flight to the UK.
Ali, a veteran of 78 Tests and 53 ODIs, dismissed concerns about the team’s young pace attack.
“I believe we have a pace-cum-spin attack which can give England a run for their money. Youngsters like Shaheen Shah Afridi, Naseem Shah or Muhammad Hasnain have immense potential to succeed in English conditions while we have plenty of experience as well in our bowling,” he added.
The 35-year-old Ali said he did not believe that his bowlers would face problems in England due to the new ICC Standard Operating Procedures for bowlers because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t think not being able to use saliva to shine the ball is a big problem. Pace bowlers usually sweat a lot and plus the Duke ball has a lot of wax coating so the shine remains for a long time and it can be polished with sweat.
“Bowlers get natural movement with the Duke ball in English conditions and not being able to use saliva means our bowlers can also try to reverse swing it more,” he said.
Ali said that Pakistan would not face any problem playing in empty stadiums as they were accustomed to this environment while playing in the UAE in the last 10 years.
“No one knows better than us what it is like to bat in an empty stadium,” Ali said.
He also dispelled the impression that the players going to England were under pressure because of the positive tests of 10 players and one official.
“I think if someone tests positive it is a surprise and this happened with our players but generally I think in this lockdown period the players have kept themselves fit and ready for cricket.”
He also said that the players have no concerns about playing in a bio-secure environment in England or remaining in quarantine and isolation for long periods.
“The West Indies are already there and they appear to be comfortable and safe and are preparing now for their tests.”
Ali said he would bat at his usual number three position but if the need arises he could bat elsewhere in the order.
“I have settled down at number three but whenever the team has needed me to open I have also opened.”
Ali said that despite some inexperience in the team, most of the players had done well in England on previous tours and knew the threat of bowlers like James Anderson, Stuart Broad or Jofra Archer.
“We have played them before and we have scored against them as well so it is not going to be a surprise for us.”