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HomesportscricketBabar Azam last to enter nets during Pakistan training ahead of must-win...

Babar Azam last to enter nets during Pakistan training ahead of must-win World Cup tie against South Africa

Chennai: Skipper Babar Azam was last to arrive in the nets here on Thursday as Pakistan finalised their preparations for the must-win clash against South Africa, facing a tough ask to keep their World Cup semifinals hopes alive.

The 29-year-old is under severe pressure as Pakistan have lost three matches on the trot and a defeat to the rampant South Africans would virtually knock them out of the semifinal race.

Pakistan need to win each of their remaining four league stage games and also hope that the other results go their way in order to make the semifinals.

The Pakistan Cricket Board released a statement earlier in the day urging fans to ‘support captain Babar Azam and the entire Pakistan Cricket team’.

However, the PCB also said it would “make decisions in the best interest of Pakistan cricket based on the team’s performances in the World Cup”, implying that Babar’s role with the team will be under scrutiny if the Pakistan team, which has fallen short on many counts in this World Cup, crashes out in the first round.

The PCB said both Babar and chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq were given “freedom and support in in forming the squad for the ICC World Cup 2023”.

It was right after the statement that Pakistan’s training session began here, during which Babar largely kept to himself. After a 30-minute fielding session, he was the last to arrive in the nets to bat.

He appeared to be taking a reserved approach, sitting down for a chat with the support staff before heading into the nets and facing seamers and throwdown specialists. Opening batter Imam-ul-Haq was also seen having a chat with Babar.

Imam and Fakhar Zaman also had a hit against the local seam and spin bowlers.

With his slingy bowling action, Zaman Khan was seen assisting the batters in their preparations even though South Africa do not have any such bowler in their ranks.

Zaman is still yet to gain full fitness from the knee injury that he suffered right before the competition.

Although the left-handed batter had a long session on Wednesday, he batted only for a short while on Thursday and is unlikely to be drafted to the playing XI.

The Pakistan management is likely to give Imam another chance with the batter getting into double digits in each of the five games in this World Cup but managing only one fifty.

However, sources indicate that spinner Usama Mir is all set to be replaced by Mohammad Nawaz, with the side preferring a finger spinner on the slow Chepauk surface.

(Published 26 October 2023, 15:41 IST)

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