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Arthur pleased with comeback after India horror show

CricketArthur pleased with comeback after India horror show

From the depths of despair after the insipid performance against India, there’s now a far more upbeat mood in the Pakistan camp. They kept their Champions Trophy campaign alive with an incisive display in the field against South Africa, and did enough with the bat to ward off a collapse, and know a position in the semi-finals is in their control. It would be a very handy stepping stone in the long-term project of rebuilding the one-day side.

After the dismal opening performance, coach Mickey Arthur spoke about the fear that inhibited Pakistan’s players and nothing has changed his mind that they were “intimidated” by India. But the response has been heartening for him and he praised the open appraisals that had taken place after that match which enabled the turnaround against South Africa.

“I looked around the dressing room before that [India] game and we didn’t believe that we could beat them,” Arthur said. “It was such a contrast to the South Africa game were we believed in our skills and ability.

“I’m pretty honest and straightforward. We had some honest conversations and the good thing about it is that the players are contributing to that conversation now whereas a year ago they didn’t. They are starting to take responsibility and once that happens it’s a massive psychological barrier they have broken down in the dressing room. I come out of an environment where you have mature conversations all the time and they can’t be sugar-coated, they have to happen for you to move forward. The guys responded fantastically well.”Arthur 1

The victory was set up by an attack which found its teeth on a used pitch at Edgbaston – “I was happy they stuck us on a used one,” Arthur said – with Imad Wasim removing AB de Villiers for the first golden duck of his ODI career and Hasan Ali producing one of the balls of the tournament to castle Wayne Parnell. Between them, Hasan and Imad took 5 for 44 off 16 overs. Along with a lively ODI debut from Fakhar Zaman, whose 31 off 23 balls gave Pakistan breathing space to absorb Morne Morkel’s impressive spell, it was an impressive match for a clutch of the youngsters, something which gave Arthur great satisfaction.

“To see them perform is the best thing that can happen to any coach,” he said. “Hasan Ali is one of those. If you saw him now and remember him a year ago he’s developed, he’s stronger and fitter, his skills are developing and he will be a fine all-round cricketer. He can field, he can bat, he can bowl. He’s in great shape so I’m very proud of his development. He stands out as one of the beacons; him Babar Azam, Imad Wasim – we have some good young players coming through and we have to keep them believing.”

There will also be two more experienced foes up against each other in the Group B match in Cardiff with Arthur pitted against Sri Lanka’s South African-born coach Graham Ford. “Fordy and I have been very close over a long period of time so it’s taking on an old friend. Sri Lanka are very dangerous, they played exceptionally well against India,” Arthur said. “It’s fearless cricket. They hit the ball hard, play outrageous shots. They will be a tough side to beat. We’ll have to be on our game.”

Though the focus is firmly on Cardiff and Monday’s match, events thousands of miles away have also given Pakistan another boost. Afghanistan’s victory against West Indies, inspired by Rashid Khan’s 7 for 18, has widened the gap in the race for an automatic World Cup spot. Pakistan hold that position at No. 8 with West Indies’ defeat leaving them further adrift ahead of the September 30 cut-off.

“It’s been a focus of ours, we’ve had it over heads for a year and we’ve had some tough one-day series – England away, Australia away, they are tough – so to almost qualify is a huge relief but that doesn’t stop where we want to take the one-day team,” Arthur said. “We have to keep improving all the time, playing with intensity, keep the freshness so we can put a shake on at that World Cup.

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