Asad Shafiq is our 

match-winner and one of the best players we have got, says Test skipper

Make sure we leave no stone unturned and give everything to each other and the badge, 

captain Root asks players

LAHORE           -       Pakistan Test skipper Azhar Ali has said that they are focused on winning the third Test against England, which commences today (Friday) at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton.

Talking to sports journalists during a virtual press conference here on Thursday, Azhar said: “As a player, a professional and a captain, you have to look at the challenge ahead of you. We are focused on winning the third Test, which is a must-win match for us. We played some good cricket so far in the series and want to take all the positives in the third Test.”

Mohammad Abbas enjoyed the conditions during the first outing in Southampton and though Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah are still only 20 and 17 respectively, Azhar wants to further their education rather than draft in a more experienced seamer such as Sohail Khan, who took two five-wicket hauls during the warm-up games.

“We are lucky enough to have exciting fast bowlers although they are young. Naseem is just 18 while Shaheen is 20. You can’t buy experience, but they are exciting characters. We have to back them as they are bowling well and putting the opposition under pressure. You can’t gain experience by sitting outside, you have to play for it,” he said.

“At the end of last year, we were struggling for fast bowlers when we went to Australia; they have taken up the challenge and impressed everyone around the world. They have so much potential and experience will come gradually. I still feel they are good enough to win Test matches for Pakistan,” he added.

To a query regarding his captaincy, he said: “I am lucky to have such a nice bunch of guys, who are putting everything in for Pakistan. They have gelled really nicely, which makes my job easy, so I can focus on strategies. I am enjoying my role as a captain and hopefully we can win this Test match and move forward from there.”

When asked about his own form with the bat, Azhar said: “I was feeling really confident about myself in the two hours or so I spent at the crease in my previous innings [20] and my balance was good as well. It is my responsibility to make sure that I score runs.”

Replying to a query regarding the performance of most senior duo (Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq) of Pakistan team, the skipper said: “As a batsman, my focus is on my batting and it’s my responsibility to make sure that I score runs. Asad Shafiq is our match-winner and one of the best players we have got. “Everyone, including the management and myself, are backing him (Asad) to make runs. He has always made runs under pressure for Pakistan. As senior players, both Asad and I have to step up and contribute to the Pakistan batting. We will both try and do our best to help Pakistan win the third Test,” he added.

Meanwhile, England captain Joe Root said ‘enjoy it, and cherish it’. “We don’t know the next time we will play test cricket,” Root said in a video call. “So let’s make sure we throw everything into this week. Make sure we leave no stone unturned and give everything to each other and the badge.”

A flexible approach to starting times was announced Thursday for the third test, giving teams an opportunity to make up for lost time by starting a day’s play 30 minutes earlier. Captains and coaches of both teams have agreed to the changes, with the ECB saying, “further consideration will be given to applying these changes at future series played in England. “This will enable us to play more cricket,” Root said. “It seems a sensible way of doing it. With the environment we find ourselves in and the times we are in, it seems a good way of maximizing hours of play.”

The weather in Southampton is not looking too promising, with rain on three out of the five days. There is some chance of dry weather on day 2 and 3 but otherwise, the forecast is incredibly gloomy. The pitch at the Rose Bowl has traditionally had a dry look to it. There is assistance for pacers on the first few days with the hardness and grass on the pitch. As the Test progresses, spinners will play a part.

SQUADS (PROBABLES):

PAKISTAN: Azhar Ali (C), Babar Azam, Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Imam ul haq, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan, Usman Shinwari, Wahab Riaz, Yasir Shah.

ENGLAND: Joe Root (C), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, James Bracey, Ben Foakes, Jack Leach.