Naseem Shah’s excellence can help Pakistan cover absence of Shaheen Afridi – Babar Azam

Teenage fast bowler played through pain but his side ultimately fell short against India in Asia Cup 2022

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Babar Azam is confident Naseem Shah will suffer no lasting effects of the cramp which saw him hobble from the field at the end of Pakistan’s loss to India in the Asia Cup on Sunday night.

Pakistan’s captain also reckons the lionhearted teenager can help make up for the absence of Shaheen Afridi in the tournament in the UAE.

The 19-year-old fast bowler made an eye-catching start to life in T20 international cricket, as he fired out KL Rahul for a golden duck at the Dubai International Stadium.

Thanks to his efforts, Pakistan made a plucky defence of a total of 147 which always seemed under par.

The toil took its toll on the young quick. He limped to the wicket throughout most of his final over, had to have treatment for cramp, and left the field as soon as his bowling effort was done.

Pakistan face Hong Kong next on Friday in Sharjah. Babar expects Naseem to be fit and ready to lead the attack again, and think he is key to his side's prospects.

“Naseem bowled well at the start, he took crucial wickets and bowled well in the death as well,” Babar said.

“We missed Shaheen [who is out with a posterior cruciate ligament injury] but he never let us feel his absence. It was his confidence that made him bowl like that.”

Hardik Pandya of India hits the winning runs. Getty Images

India eventually sealed a five-wicket win with two balls to spare after Hardik Pandya hit left-arm spinner Mohammed Nawaz for six. Babar rued a slow beginning to Pakistan’s batting effort.

“The way we started we were 10-15 runs short,” Babar said.

“We came back thanks to our outstanding fast bowling. [No 11 Shahnawaz] Dahani stepped up with the bat which really gave us something to defend, but it’s a shame we couldn't finish it off.

"We wanted to have 15 or so to defend for Nawaz [in the last over], but that wasn’t to be and Pandya finished it off wonderfully."

Pandya’s heroics capped quite the turnaround. Last year, he was stretchered off the field as India were thrashed by 10 wickets by the same opposition in the T20 World Cup.

Since then, he has become an Indian Premier League winning captain, and he exuded confidence as he marshalled India through a nervy run chase.

“I knew they had Nawaz waiting to bowl, and while we needed seven, even if we needed 15 I would have fancied my chances,” Pandya said.

“I feel the bowler is under a lot more pressure than me. I just needed one six in that final over. I try to keep things simple.”

Updated: August 29, 2022, 5:31 AM