Fakhar Zaman out of contention as Pakistan grapple with illness ahead of Australia clash

Babar Azam's team take on resurgent Australia in Bengaluru on Friday

Pakistan's Fakhar Zaman has been sidelined for their World Cup match against Australia in Bengaluru. AP
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Pakistan received more unfortunate news on Thursday as opening batsman Fakhar Zaman was ruled out of their crucial World Cup match against Australia in Bengaluru.

Their World Cup campaign had already suffered a big jolt when they lost comprehensively to India by seven wickets in Ahmedabad. And as if the poor form of their bowlers and lower order batsmen was not enough, the Pakistan camp got hit by the flu, with a number of players arriving in Bengaluru with illness and fever.

According to reports, Shaheen Afridi, Saud Shakeel and Abdullah Shafique were among the players to fall ill. They are said to be feeling better now and should be in a position to be considered for selection.

However, opening batsman Zaman will not be available for selection. Zaman was ruled unavailable for selection until next week due to a knee injury, team management said.

The left-hander, 34, was dropped from the starting line-up after scoring just 12 in the opening win against the Netherlands and replaced by Shafique.

"Zaman is being treated for a knee injury, he is expected to be available for selection next week," said the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).

Zaman had been struggling for form. His replacement Shafique has shown enough composure, even though Imam-ul-Haq is not inspiring much confidence and was expected to be replaced by Zaman.

India v Pakistan player ratings

Also, leg-spinner Usama Mir could replace either Shadab Khan or Mohammad Nawaz as a specialist spinner after both all-rounders struggled to make an impact either with ball or bat.

Pakistan made a solid start to the tournament with wins over Netherlands and Sri Lanka at Hyderabad.

The crowd in Hyderabad was behind them as Shafique and Mohammad Rizwan both scored centuries in Pakistan's record run chase of 345-4.

But the team in green faced a vociferous partisan crowd of more than 100,000 India supporters at Ahmedabad as they slumped from 155-2 to be all out for 191.

“Win or lose is part of the game,” said wicketkeeper Rizwan. “We have lost to India, but if you see we had also won two matches. We have to match our skills with our game awareness. We can’t say we are behind the world.”

While their batting has been decent, Pakistan's bowling has become a problem. Afridi has struggled to pick up early wickets and is down on pace, while Haris Rauf and Hasan Ali have performed in patches. Spinners Shadab and Nawaz have been off colour.

However, Rizwan backed his bowlers to come good.

“Everyone is saying we are unpredictable but I believe we have the world’s top bowlers,” Rizwan said. “Everyone is rightly thinking that our spinners are not picking up wickets, but if you look at their bowling they are doing good. Shadab and Nawaz can turn the match in our favor any time.”

Meanwhile, Australia got their campaign back on track with a battling five-wicket win over Sri Lanka. The five-time champions lost the first two games of the tournament comprehensively to India and South Africa, before pulling things back against the islanders.

Leg spinner Adam Zampa led the way with the ball, picking up four wickets.

“We all back each other 100 per cent in this team,” Zampa said after the Sri Lanka win.

Updated: October 19, 2023, 11:25 AM