Amir aims for another Taunton triumph; Finch backs Warner to fire - GulfToday

Amir aims for another Taunton triumph

Pakistan

Pakistan’s Asif Ali attends a training session at The County Ground in Taunton, southwest England, on Tuesday. Agence France-Presse

Mohammad Amir will hope to enjoy another landmark occasion at Taunton when Pakistan face Australia there in a World Cup match on Wednesday.

The group fixture at southwest county Somerset’s headquarters sees Amir back at the ground where he made his return to first-class cricket in England three years ago.

Amir was the rising star of world Cricket when his career came to a stunning halt during a Lord’s Test in 2010 after both he and new-ball partner Mohamed Asif were caught bowling no-balls on the orders of then Pakistan captain Salman Butt as part of a newspaper sting operation.

The trio all received five-year bans from Cricket and jail terms.

That same 2010 season had seen Amir produce a superb display of swing bowling in taking three for 20 as Pakistan dismissed Australia for just 88 on the first day of a ‘neutral’ Test at Headingley.

Those skills remained intact as Amir marked his 2016 return to the first-class game in England in 2016 with a haul of three for 36 against Somerset at Taunton.

All three wickets — including that of former England opener Marcus Trescothick — owed much to late swing.

The intervening years have not been easy for Amir, however, and he almost missed what is his first World Cup after taking just five wickets in 14 matches before a recent one-day international series in England.

But having been left out of Pakistan’s preliminary squad for the World Cup, the 27-year-old made it into the final 15.

His World Cup debut was a rare Pakistan highlight after they slumped to 105 all out against the West Indies, with Amir taking three for 26 in a seven-wicket loss at Trent Bridge.

He was in the wickets again at the Nottingham ground, but this time in a winning cause, with two for 67 as Pakistan surprisingly beat tournament favourites England by 14 runs last week.

But Pakistan’s progress was checked by a total washout against Sri Lanka at Bristol.

Pakistan have won just one of their last 14 matches against champions Australia, the five-times World Cup winners.

“We have not won many matches against Australia but we had not won too many against England either,” said Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed.

“But we have finally beaten England and that has given us a lot of positives. We will go with the aggressive approach we showed against England.”

The wicket-keeper expects to face an Australia side stung by a 36-run loss to India last weekend -- their first defeat of this World Cup following wins over Afghanistan and the West Indies.

“We know Australia will try to come back and with (Steve) Smith and (David) Warner back they are at their best again,” said Sarfaraz.

“We respect all our opponents and are ready for them.”

Sarfaraz also insistsed Pakistan fans won’t boo shamed Australia star Steven Smith during their match. Pakistan fans are expected to make up a large chunk of the crowd in the west country and there are fears they might follow the example of the India supporters who jeered Smith at the Oval on Sunday. But Pakistan captain Sarfaraz says his compatriots will not resort to such tactics.

“Pakistani people love Cricket, they love to support and they love the players.”

Australia will hope opener Warner, for all he has already scored two fifties this World Cup, is back to his destructive best at Taunton.

Warner’s 56 off 84 balls against India -- of which 48 were dots -- helped contribute to a slow run-rate that left Australia with too much to do at the end of their innings.

Finch backed Warner, who along with Smith is playing in his first major tournament for Australia since serving a year-long ban for ball-tampering.

“They (India) bowled very well to Warner and he needs some more time. He’s a world-class player and will get us off to a flyer,” said Finch.

Australia all-rounder Marcus Stoinis has been ruled out of their next match with a side strain, Finch said. Stoinis, who has played in all three games for Australia in the tournament, picked up the injury in the match against India at The Oval on Sunday.

All-rounder Mitchell Marsh has been flown over to England as back-up, but the Australians will wait to make a call on whether he permanently replaces Stoinis in their 15-man squad.

Agence France-Presse

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