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Sarfaraz Ahmed

'Have to identify our strengths ahead of World Cup' – Sarfaraz Ahmed

Pakistan news

Sarfaraz Ahmed, the Pakistan skipper, has said they want to "identify their strengths" and "try different combinations" in the one-day international series against South Africa to find the right XI ahead of ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019.

Pakistan are fifth on the MRF Tyres ICC ODI Team Rankings and will use the South Africa series, as well as the ODIs against England to follow to fine-tune their preparations for the premier tournament, which starts 30 May.

The team last won the World Cup back in 1992, but their success in England, where they lifted the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017 and reached the World Cup final in 1999, should give them confidence. 

"We have to identify our strengths ahead of the World Cup for which we will be trying different combinations in this series," Sarfaraz said on Friday, 18 January, ahead of the opening ODI against South Africa. 

After suffering a 3-0 defeat against the Proteas in the Test series, the visitors are keen to turn the tables in the shorter formats of the game. The captain believed batting first and putting up a good total was key to that.

"It is necessary to get runs while batting in the first innings. If a touring team is able to do that, they win matches," he said. "Four of our five matches are day/night encounters. The teams prefer to bat first here, like India did [last year], as it gets difficult to bat under lights."

Fakhar Zaman, the Pakistan opener, was left out of the playing XI for the final Test after tallying just 32 runs across four innings of the first two games. Ahmed, however, has backed the left-hander ahead of the ODI series, deeming him a "very important player".

"Fakhar Zaman is a very important player for us and his target is to play his natural game, which is quite similar to how David Warner plays or how Virender Sehwag or Shahid Afridi played in the past," Ahmed explained. "I have told him that he needs to stay at the wicket more because his presence scares the bowlers."

The first of five ODIs between South Africa and Pakistan will be played at St George's Park in Port Elizabeth on Saturday. 

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