For Mohammad Hafeez, playing in England is about as close as it gets to a home away from home. Backed by vociferous support whenever they head to the UK, Pakistan boast a formidable record on English shores – despite the conditions contrasting sharply to those in Lahore or Islamabad. They won both the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 as well as the ICC T20 World Cup 2009, while they drew a two-match Test series with England last summer.
Preparation this time around has been less than ideal though, with Sarfaraz Ahmed’s side losing the ODI series with England earlier this month before being edged out by Afghanistan in their opening World Cup warm-up game. But batting stalwart Hafeez is counting on the large Pakistani community in the UK to help them turn things around.
Every time we come here, the first thing we get is the massive support. We always feel when coming here like we’re playing at home, he said. The fans are very fanatic and they want us to get success. That’s what we’re here for. It’s a boost, to be honest. The atmosphere is always electric. As a cricketer, you always want to do well and get lots of respect.
Pakistan have at least taken some solace from the superb form of the elegant Babar Azam, who helped them to a series of big scores against Eoin Morgan’s side. And with totals of 300 and above expected to be commonplace over the course of the tournament, Hafeez, 38, has stressed the importance of having an X-factor in the bowling ranks.
The series we played here last time before the World Cup, I’ve never seen the pitches like that before. There’s something to adjust, and I think everyone is ready for that, he added.
The pitches are immaculate now but let’s see how it goes as the tournament progresses. —VoM