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Azhar Mahmood

'Trying combinations with World Cup in mind' – Azhar Mahmood

Azhar Mahmood, the Pakistan bowling coach, said that although the team have lost the one-day international series to Australia, it has provided them a great opportunity to test their bench strength ahead of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019.

Pakistan struggled to chase Australia's 266 in the third ODI in Abu Dhabi and were skittled out for 186. However, Mahmood insisted there were a lot of positives to take from the series.

The bowling attack, for example, gave the team plenty to be pleased with, with the performance of Usman Shinwari especially encouraging. "He has bowled really well," said Mahmood after the game on Wednesday, 27 March. "And [so has] Junaid [Khan]. We have got a young find in the form of [Mohammad] Hasnain."

In the batting, he identified the hundreds for Haris Sohail and Mohammad Rizwan as highlights. "Unfortunately, today, the ball was doing a bit, so we were not good enough."

The likes of Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam and skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed have been rested for the Australia series, as Pakistan have tried to find their back-up players for the World Cup. "We know what our main strength is in batting and bowling," said the bowling coach. "The regular guys are going to return, but we thought this series is a good opportunity to test the capabilities of youngsters.

"We are trying different combinations keeping the World Cup in mind. If we play only our main strength and then someone gets injured, we won’t have any options left. This series was our best chance to test bench strength."

If we play only our main strength and then someone gets injured, we won’t have any options left. This series was our best chance to test bench strength.

He also lavished praise on Aaron Finch, the Australia captain, who has been in a terrific form, with scores of 116, 153* and 90 in the three ODIs. "I have played with him in Surrey, so I know when he is on song, he is difficult to stop. He is having the purple patch of his life. He knows when to attack and when to defend. He is a class player," he said.

Mahmood also rued the reprieve handed to Glenn Maxwell, who was dropped on 27. "When Maxie comes, he gives you chances, but he also plays a lot of funky shots like reverse sweep and paddle sweep," he said. "So it is difficult to bowl against him.

"We dropped Maxie early on. When you drop players like him and Finch, it is very difficult to stop them. I think we've got to learn. You need experience when you are bowling against these guys ... Junaid bowled well against him, but Hasnain struggled a bit."

'Getting opportunities and grabbing them is key ' – Malik
'Getting opportunities and grabbing them is key ' – Malik

Shoaib Malik, the Pakistan skipper, was disappointed that the home team were unable to grab the opportunities that came their way. "The Aussie bowlers were seaming and swinging the ball around," he said. "If you give a couple of chances to a good batsman, then expect to chase something big. Getting opportunities and grabbing them is key."

Echoing Mahmood's sentiments, Malik explained, "We are trying to give all the players chances, so selection committee and team management have a better picture in front of them. Every game is important. We have two more opportunities. If we win two games, we have something in our pocket."

The fourth ODI will be played in Dubai on Friday.

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