Waqar Younis has high hopes for bowlers despite lack of “ideal preparation”

If Sri Lankan Cricket were to write a travel guide to the UK, one suspects that “don’t bother with Bristol” would be their advice regarding the city on the banks of the River Avon. Sunday’s no result was the fourth match out of six for the Sri Lanka tourists at the County Ground to be rained off or abandoned.

Unlike Test cricket, if a one-day or T20 game is hit by rain, there aren’t four other days for the match to fall back on.

Pakistan are the next men’s “white ball only” tourists in the UK this and their illustrious bowling coach Waqar Younis has already bemoaned the lack of ideal preparation time for his team and particularly his bowlers.

After his seven years in English county cricket with Surrey, Glamorgan and Warwickshire, Waqar should be pretty familiar with the vagaries of the English climate.

In today’s press conference ahead of the series, which starts on Thursday in Cardiff, the 49-year-old said he believed that more time on the ground could have proved beneficial for the players and the team.

“We could not have ideal preparations due to rain. It would have been better if the sun was out and we could have spent more time on the ground,” said Younis.

“Cricket has changed significantly. Bowling at the death is not an easy task. You can’t just stop the flow of runs with yorkers. We have talked to the bowlers keeping in mind the conditions in England. We are hopeful that the players will perform up to our expectations during the series.”

Waqar reserved particular praise for quick men Ali and Shaheen Afridi.

“It takes time for bowlers to adjust for ODIs after playing T20s,” he said. “The pacers are getting into a good rhythm. We have been looking at the series between England and Sri Lanka with a lot of interest and will be making our plans accordingly.

“The rankings of the bowlers don’t matter if Pakistan is winning. The bowlers had lesser experience on previous tours. Hasan Ali is in good form while Shaheen has also done really well.”

No doubt, as well as feeling a sense of incredulity at the fragility of the Sri Lankan batting, he will also have noted the success of left-arm and swing against them, with David Willey, Chris Woakes and both Curran brothers pitching the ball up to cause trouble. He will also have seen that Dushmantha Chameera and Binura Fernando, right arm and left arm respectively, both enjoyed some success across both formats.

Pakistan certainly have the seam bowling resources to trouble the 50-over world champions.

Hasan has been amongst the wickets in all formats since April, following up his 14 wickets at just 8.93 in the two-Test series versus Zimbawe in Harare, with white ball wickets in the T20Is and in the PSL. His blend of variations should be well suited to English conditions, particularly if there is some weather about as is currently forecast.

Shaheen Afridi, whilst young, is no stranger to English conditions and has taken his 51 ODI wickets at a miserly 22.9 and a strike rate of 25. In 2019, he noticeably gained confidence across the four ODIs that preceded the World Cup, finishing with four wickets at Headingley. In the five World Cup games that followed, he took 16 wickets at a strike rate of just 17 and an average of only 14. Fourteen of those wickets came at Edgbaston, Headingley and Lord’s, all venues to which he will be returning to lock horns with England in the coming weeks.

Afridi and Ali will be backed up by fellow pacers, Mohammad Hasnain and Haris Rauf, together with bowling all-rounder Faheem Ashraf.

The spin department offers the promise of Usman Qadir (leg breaks) – son of all-time great Abdul – who has enjoyed early success in T20Is as well as plenty of experience all-rounder Shadab Khan (leg spin) and the potential of Agha Salman (off breaks).

This series between England and Pakistan should be intriguing and highly competitive. Cardiff’s weather forecast for Thursday currently points to some sunny spells but plenty of cloud cover. Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali will be licking their lips at that as much as Woakes, Willey, Wood, the Currans and perhaps, at some point, George Garton.