PALLEKELE, SRI LANKA // Shahid Afridi, the Pakistan captain, says his opening batsmen were struggling in the World Cup because they were unsure whether to play positively or just try to survive early overs.
"At the moment, boys [openers] are thinking let's play 15 overs, but don't lose wickets and another way they are thinking is to play their positive game," Afridi said.
Openers Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad have scored just 93 runs between them in four matches as their poor starts have put the middle-order under pressure and the team failed to cross the 200-run mark against Canada and New Zealand.
"It's a very good combination [of openers] but the boys are not performing," Afridi said ahead of tomorrow's Group A match against Zimbabwe. "We are trying to give them confidence to perform."
Umar Akmal, the middle-order batsman, suffered another minor injury when he twisted his ankle while playing football during training at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium on Sunday. But he returned to the fielding session with his left ankle heavily strapped.
Akmal also bruised his index finger during fielding practice on Thursday and since then has not batted in the nets.
However, Afridi insisted Akmal was still under consideration for Monday's game. If Akmal could not regain full fitness, Asad Shafiq could get his first World Cup game.
Pakistan have six points from three wins and Afridi was targeting a quarter-finals berth with a win over Zimbabwe, who has just two points after four matches.
Pakistan to host first series in two years
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will host a team from the Indian Punjab in June for a limited-overs series as the country takes steps towards reviving international cricket on home soil following a two-year absence.
No international or representative cricket has been played in Pakistan since March 2009 after militants attacked the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.
Today, Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, confirmed an agreement had been reached with India's Punjab Cricket Association for a bilateral series in June and September in the Punjab provinces of the neighbouring countries.
"The governments of both countries have given the green light for the series to take place and the Indian Punjab team is also visiting Pakistan with the approval of the Indian cricket board," Butt told the Dawn daily newspaper.
New Zealand await on injury worry to Mills
New Zealand team management said it was too early to draw firm conclusions about the injury to paceman Kyle Mills, who limped off while bowling in Sunday's match against Canada. Mills, who opened the bowling in his team's 97-run win, left the field after only 2.4 overs of his spell, in which time he took 2-2.
The media manager Ellery Tappin said no firm conclusions could yet be drawn. "It was a strain in the quadriceps of his left leg. He will be kept under 48-hour observation," he said.
Captain Daniel Vettori also missed the match due to a knee injury but is expected to return to the side for Friday's game against Sri Lanka.
Bangladesh weigh-up spin option
Fresh from victory over England, Bangladesh may try to put the squeeze on the Netherlands by playing an extra spinner on a low, slow wicket in their quest to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.
The co-host meets the Dutch tomorrow with four points from two wins, against Ireland and England, but they needs to win their two remaining games in Group B to reach the last-eight.
Bangladesh coach Jamie Siddons said Bangladesh might add Sohrawardy Shuvo as another spin option. "
They have got a lot of right-handers in the team, it will be difficult for them if we put another left-hander in," he said.
Andre Both: Ireland have missed opportunities
Andre Botha, the all-rounder says Ireland have missed opportunities to win games at the World Cup, leaving the underdogs with two must-win matches and only a remote chance of a quarter-final place.
Ireland's only win over England could be rendered insignificant after the Irish fell just short in their opening Group B game against Bangladesh and then allowed a winning position to slip away against West Indies last week.
Botha said the Irish had created chances to win all its games so far "and now we're sitting at this stage where we basically have to win two games."
Ireland have to beat Botha's country of birth, South Africa, on Tuesday and then Netherlands to have any chance of extending their stay at the World Cup.