LAHORE-Pakistan bowling coach Waqar Younis has backed 35-year-old captain Azhar Ali to regain his lost form and produce good results for the team in the second Test against England, commencing today (Thursday) in Southampton. 

Waqar said this during a virtual media talk organised by the PCB media department here on Wednesday. “Azhar Ali is an experienced campaigner and he knows well how to tackle such situations. I am very optimistic that he will produce good results for the team in the next match,” he said. 

The former captain admits that although the boys committed some mistakes in the first Test, which cost them the match, yet they are capable of making a strong comeback. “It was a tough pill to swallow, losing the previous Test match. I thought we won more sessions and played really well but unfortunately, we lost some sessions at the wrong time and lady of luck also didn’t favour us last day, which really cost us the game. I believe that both players and the team management are responsible for that poor result,” he added. 

About 17-year-old young pacer, Waqar said: “Naseem is very, very talented and he is still growing, his bones are growing but what a talent he is. I don’t think he really bowled as well as we expected in the previous game, but he can really bowl well and take the opposition on at times. He is young and inexperienced, so it gets tough sometimes. All he needs to do is probably get stronger and fitter. 

“He is one for the future and will get stronger, and hopefully get fitter and will be able to bowl longer spells and he will cause trouble for batsmen around the world. Over the years, Pakistan has produced some real quality fast bowlers. If he keeps him fit and strong and keeps bowling, I am sure he has the potential to become a very good bowler,” he added. 

The bowling coach urged his bowlers to take advantage of Ben Stokes’ absence as they look to hit back in the second Test. “Although Stokes was dismissed cheaply in both innings of the first Test at Old Trafford, Waqar feels the loss of England’s most destructive batsman - who is on his way to New Zealand for family reasons - will weaken their line-up. 

“If he (Stokes) is not around, it’s unfortunate for cricket, but there’s no doubt he is a match winner. England will probably be a touch light in their middle order, so we are going to talk about that and try to cash in. He’s the kind of batsman who takes the game away from you - single-handedly at times. But the way we bowled at him in the previous game showed we had very clear plans and executed them really well,” he added. 

Praising promising leg spinner Yasir Shah, the former pacer said: “Yasir is a match winner and an attacking bowler and he likes to be involved in the game all the time which is apparent from his batting also, his bowling and his aggressive approach. We are very lucky to have him. He has won Pakistan heaps of games and his record speaks for itself. 

“Unfortunately, he couldn’t finish the game, although the pitch of Old Trafford was tailor-made for him. He could have bowled out England but that’s the way cricket goes - sometimes it comes your way, sometimes it doesn’t but we have full faith in him that he will deliver in the upcoming games,” Waqar concluded. 

Meanwhile, England skipper Joe Root has backed James Anderson to hit peak form again, saying that the pace bowler’s spot in the team was not in question ahead of the second Test. Root said the 38-year-old would get an immediate chance to put things right when they face Pakistan at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, as the hosts look to go 2-0 up in the series. 

“To question Jimmy’s ability, his record... do that at your own peril,” Root told a news conference. “There’s a reason he’s got so many wickets over such a long period — he’s a consistent performer. I don’t think it’ll be long until he’s back among the wickets big time. “It’ll be very silly for us to write someone like Jimmy off. He’s still as dedicated as ever, working hard at his game and looking good in practice.” 

Root said Anderson had spoken to him about his form during the first Test. “We had an honest conversation... to get that off his chest and to talk about it has helped him,” Root added. “It shows even the greats of the game still have those days when it doesn’t always come as naturally to you... it can be a real struggle sometimes. “It’s easy to look at the statistics and not have a more broad view on how things are actually going.” 

England earlier named uncapped seam bowler Ollie Robinson in their 14-man squad to replace all-rounder Ben Stokes, who has been ruled out of the remaining two games of the three-match series for family reasons. Sussex paceman Robinson, 26, made his first-class debut in 2015 and has played 57 matches. 





Azhar Ali (captain), Babar Azam (vc), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Imam, Kashif Bhatti, M Abbas, M Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Sarfraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah





Joe Root (captain), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, 

Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, 

Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Dom Sibley, Chris Woakes 

and Mark Wood