Cardiff - Pakistan may be the underdogs heading into a
Champions Trophy semi-final with England in Cardiff on Wednesday, but coach
Mickey Arthur believes their "best game" could see his side cause a
England were the only team to exit the group stage unbeaten,
having won all three of their matches.
Pakistan, by contrast, suffered a 124-run thrashing by
title-holders and arch-rivals India in their opener before, just days later,
upsetting the ranking in a bottom versus top contest by beating South Africa.
It then needed an "ugly" win over Sri Lanka in
Cardiff on Monday to take Pakistan into the last four of a tournament featuring
the world's top eight one-day international sides.
Pakistan, chasing a seemingly modest target of 237 against
Sri Lanka, were facing defeat and tournament elimination at 137 for six.
But Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, dropped twice, struck a
superb 61 not out and received excellent support from Mohammad Amir (28 not
out) in an unbroken eighth-wicket stand of 75 that sealed a tense three-wicket
"When you win ugly, you learn a lot about the
team," said Arthur, a former coach of both his native South Africa and
Australia. "So I guess it gives a lot of confidence."
But he said a semi-final could not be the summit of
Pakistan's ambitions, with an all Asian final against either India or
Bangladesh, who play Thursday, in their sights.
"The last thing I want is for us to go away now
thinking that we got to a semi-final, we're okay, we've achieved, because that
would be a cop-out in my mind," he said.
Pakistan certainly made had work of the chase after their
bowlers had held Sri Lanka to 236 all out, with pacemen Junaid Khan (three for
40) and Hasan Ali (three for 43) doing the damage.
"Sometimes that's our strength, our
unpredictability," said Arthur. "It's just we do sometimes make it
difficult for ourselves."
Well though Sarfraz batted, he needed the support of Amir,
primarily a left-arm fast bowler.
Now back in the side after a ban and jail term in a British
prison for spot-fixing, Amir is becoming an ever more important member of the
Pakistan team and Arthur said: "He showed what we know he can do with the
bat yesterday (Monday)."
Sarfraz, meanwhile, probably wishes he could bat at Cardiff
all the time, with the wicket-keeper having made 90 on the same ground last year
as Pakistan chased down a target of 303 against England in a four-wicket win
that prevented a 5-0 ODI series whitewash.
"We win that time, we chased 300, so definitely our
confidence is very high playing in Cardiff," Sarfraz said after Monday's
However, England captain Eoin Morgan played down the
importance of last year's result by saying on Tuesday: "I think the impact
of that series was 4-1.
"Obviously, on their day, they (Pakistan) can beat any
team in the world...They're very dangerous."
But Arthur was in no doubt of England's quality, saying:
"They're a really good one-day unit with no apparent weaknesses."
England, however, are set to drop opener Jason Roy, whose
latest low score in the victory over Australia last time out means he has now
managed just 51 runs in eight ODI innings this season, and replace him with
Morgan, whose 87 together with Ben Stokes's 102 not out saw
England recover from a top-order collapse against Australia, would not confirm
England's XI on Tuesday.
But he signalled a change by saying: "We're getting to
the business end of the tournament and we need to produce results."
Roy apart, England appear to have all bases covered as they
go in search of their first major ODI title, with a long batting order and a
balanced attack led by fast bowler Mark Wood.
"I think we've started brilliantly," said Morgan.
"I hope we've not played our best cricket yet."