Arthur backs senior players despite failure in South Africa

Head Coach believes experience trio of Azhar, Asad and Sarfraz will score important runs for the team

Arthur backs senior players despite failure in South Africa PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan team Head Coach Mickey Arthur has backed senior players despite failure in South Africa and believes they will bounce back in the final Test of the series.

Sarfraz-led unit have suffered two crushing defeats on South Africa tour in the first two Tests of the three-match series, which left them 2-0 down with only one match to go.

A part from left-hander Shan Masood and right-hander Babar Azam, no Pakistan batsman lived up to the expectations against Proteas pace attack.

The major disappointment came from the senior trio of Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and captain Sarfraz, who managed to score just two half-centuries in six innings combined.

Despite below–par performances, head coach Arthur, while talking to Cricbuzz, backed the seniors to bounce back in the final game of the series.

“I just know they [seniors] are quality players and I also know that they have scored runs everywhere, in all conditions,” said Arthur. “So I am confident that they can replicate those performances and they will score the runs that we need from them when the chips are down.”

Talking about Azhar’s form, Arthur expressed concern but also revealed that the veteran right-hander is working hard to overcome the problems he is facing on the tour.

“When a quality batsman is not scoring runs, it is a concern,” he said. “Azhar is working very hard and batting very well in the nets. He was unfortunate to get one that stayed low in the second innings. But, I am confident in his ability. And, I am confident that he will get us big runs. I regard him highly and that's why I have always said that when he is playing well, he is right up there amongst the top 10 batsmen in world cricket. Certainly, he needs some runs. But, I am not worried because I know he is going to get them soon.”

Meanwhile, Arthur countered Sarfraz’s statement where the wicketkeeper-batsman highlighted bowlers lack of pace as the primary reason for the defeat in second Test.

“I think the runs that South Africa got on that wicket were too many and our bowlers would be the first ones to say that, but I certainly can't fault their attitude,” said Arthur. “The South African bowlers have been bowling incredibly quick and they keep coming at you. That's what we have tried to do with our bowlers. And, the reason that we have been on a fitness run is that our bowlers can be fitter and stronger and have the same impact in the comeback spells as they have in their first spells. This is still work in progress for us.”

Arthur also hinted that all-rounder Shadab Khan might get a chance ahead of leg-spinner Yasir Shah for the Johannesburg Test.

“Shadab is a genuine all-rounder,” he said. “It allows us, like we did at Lord's [last year], to have him at seven, Faheem at eight, and then three bowlers, which can be any of the quicks or even Yasir Shah if we think the pitch is going to turn. It gives us that flexibility.”

Talking about the performance of left-arm pacer Mohammad Amir, Arthur expressed satisfaction by saying: “In his last five Test matches, Amir has 20 wickets. He has got four-fers in both first innings on the tour so far. He is getting better and better. But, yes. We will like him to bowl at that pace again. But, at the end of the day he has been fairly economical for us and has taken wickets.”