x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Pakistan try to keep focus amid drama of Akmal brothers

Under fire Kamran was expected to be replaced by Umar but the younger sibling injures his finger and then gets fit in time for the game.

Umar Akmal, left, sprained an ankle playing football yesterday but will face Zimbabwe. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP
Umar Akmal, left, sprained an ankle playing football yesterday but will face Zimbabwe. Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP

PALLEKELE, SRI LANKA // Shahid Afridi is confident that Pakistan will seal a World Cup quarter-final spot today despite another twist in the ongoing drama regarding the Akmal brothers.

Pakistan's build-up to the game against Zimbabwe has been dominated by Kamran and Umar Akmal, who will both play today.

Ever since Kamran put in a blundering performance behind the stumps in the 110-run defeat to New Zealand last Tuesday, it had been widely-expected that younger brother Umar would take the wicketkeeper role. Umar was then accused of feigning a finger injury to save his brother's job.



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Yesterday, the 21-year-old Umar managed to sprain his right ankle while playing football during a training session although Afridi said the batsman was not seriously hurt.

"We want to put everything behind us, the defeat and any other thing which could hurt our preparation. We are in a positive frame of mind and will play for a win," said Afridi, the Pakistan captain.

"Umar is OK. As far as Kamran is concerned he has realised his mistakes and we have given him full confidence and at this moment he is our best option."

Pakistan also still have a problem with their opening batsmen, whose inability to put on a healthy partnership is straining the middle order. But despite the headaches, Afridi insists his team will not repeat the first-round exits of the 2003 and 2007 World Cups.

"I have a lot of confidence in my players. We will win against Zimbabwe to reach the quarter-finals," he said.

They could rest Shoaib Akhtar, the quick bowler who went for 71 in his nine overs against New Zealand, and if Umar is ruled out, bring in Wahab Riaz, a pace bowler and Asad Shafiq, a batsman.

Zimbabwe still have a slim chance of making the last eight despite having so far collected just two points.

But they need to beat Pakistan and Kenya, dramatically improve their run-rate and still hope Australia beat Pakistan.

"We'll believe that if we can play our best cricket then we can proceed but we must not repeat the mistakes of our last two matches," said Elton Chigumbura, the Zimbabwe captain who will celebrate his 25th birthday today.

Chigumbura said his side will be wary of Afridi's leg-spin bowling. He is the highest wicket-taker in the tournament with 15 so far.

"With Afridi we have to make sure we look to play him straight," he said. "We have noticed that he has had plenty of dismissals either bowled or lbw so we must make sure we don't look to go across the line too much."

Alan Butcher, the Zimbabwe coach, wants to see better from his batsmen.

"I am happy with the way the team has performed in the field. Most of the time we have bowled well but haven't posted a good total."