Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed has predicted a long and successful international career for Shaheen Afridi as the teenage pace bowler prepares to make his debut in the decisive third Test against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi on Monday.
A shoulder injury to bowler Mohammad Abbas during the second Test in Dubai – which Pakistan won to level the series – has presented an opportunity to Afridi, who has enjoyed a meteoric rise since making his domestic debut in September last year when his 8-39 were the best ever figures by a Pakistan bowler on first-class debut.
Afridi recently starred for Pakistan A when he took seven wickets in their win over England Lions in a four-day match last month. While he is yet to experience Test cricket, Afridi recently starred for the one-day team against New Zealand, claiming back-to-back four wicket hauls before being named man of the series, and Sarfraz believes the young bowler will make a seamless transition to the five-day format.
“We wanted to make him part of the Test team,” Sarfraz said. “He bowled well against England Lions and that brought him in to the reckoning. He has pace and can reverse swing the ball.
“He is improving day by day and that’s why he is in the Pakistan team. He has talent and is a good boy, learns fast and understands. If he keeps himself in good shape, he can play for Pakistan for the next 10 to 12 years.”
After New Zealand earned an improbable four-run victory in the opening Test in Abu Dhabi, Pakistan responded emphatically in Dubai with an innings-and-16-runs win to level the series. Yasir Shah was instrumental to that victory, claiming 14 wickets, and Sarfraz is pleased by the spinner’s timely return to form.
“The way he’s bowling, he has got his rhythm back, and we hope that with the return of his form he will do his best to win this game for us. And as a team, we’ll do our best to win this Test and the series,” the Pakistan captain said.
“It was a good all-round performance by the whole team in the last game. It has built confidence in all three departments.”
Despite the momentum being with Pakistan, Sarfraz is wary of the threat posed by New Zealand and insisted his side will take nothing for granted.
“They have good bowlers and their middle order is strong. We will try to play good cricket because any mistake can make you lose this series,” he said.
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New Zealand captain Kane Williamson insisted his team can take some positives from the heavy loss in the second Test, particularly their battling display in the second innings, although he admitted dealing better with Yasir could prove key.
“Pakistan are a strong side and know these conditions well,” he said. “To go one up against them in the series after the first game and then it was obviously disappointing in the second game.
“It was certainly not the performance that we wanted to put out. There were some positives we would need to build from. Going into the last [Test] it’s really an exciting prospect and the guys really are looking forward to it.
“In the last game, it was about 45 minutes of madness against someone like Yasir Shah who came out as an outstanding performer and put us under pressure.
“And then to follow that up with a very good batting performance on a wearing pitch was a very good sign. It was a good experience for a number of guys to build on going in to the last match.
“Yasir clearly had a fantastic last game. He bowled a number of very nice deliveries and used the conditions really, really well.”