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Coach Azhar’s nerves in shreds as Pakistan edge home

Azhar Mahmood
Azhar Mahmood
©Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Boyers

He chalked up 21 Test appearances, 143 ODIs and more than 300 List A games around the world but Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood has never experienced an attack of the jitters quite like the one he went through at Headingley.

  • Pakistan maintained momentum with three wicket win over Afghanistan
  • Semi-final hopes still alive; next up are Afghanistan at Lord’s

Pakistan, chasing a target of 228 to defeat Afghanistan and secure the win they so desperately needed to maintain high hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals of the ICC Men’s World Cup 2019, were staring defeat in the face when they slid to 156/6 after 40 overs.

Throughout my whole career, I think this was the worst moment for me in a dressing room,” said a relieved Mahmood, after Imad Wasim stayed cool to produce a match-winning 49 not out in 54 deliveries to lead his side to a tense three-wicket victory.

“I was very nervy. Afghanistan wanted to win and we didn’t want to lose to them in a crucial game so it was quite nerve-wracking because you can’t control anything when you are in the coaching staff.

“When you have to bat next, you are ready for that. But sitting in the dugout, it’s definitely very nerve-wracking.”

Earlier, 19-year-old Shaheen Afridi proved the pick of the attack, taking 4/47 in 10 hostile overs of fast bowling as Pakistan reduced Afghanistan to a total of 227/9.

And Mahmood said the teenager is improving all the time but still needs to work on some elements of his game.

“He’s got potential, he’s a very good bowler, but he’s very young,” said the 44-year-old former all-rounder. “Sometimes he needs to control his emotions and, when he bowls, the delivery stride is a main concern for me when he lands on the crease.

“Sometimes it’s quite a big stride so when he shortens it, that is when he’s most consistent. He also needs more balance at the crease, and the other thing is his wrist position. But we are working on all that.

“Since he joined the Pakistan team, he’s the guy who has been taking the wickets for us.”

Mahmood said it was a massive help for Shaheen to be able to bowl alongside the more experienced Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz, who also excelled with the ball against Afghanistan.

 “The young guy gets a lot of encouragement from the other two,” Mahmood explained. “All three of them are left-armers, so that’s very helpful.

 “If we have to restrict the opposition to less runs, these guys are very important for us. That’s the difference because when we don’t take wickets, other teams get 300. Now these guys are taking wickets, we can restrict sides.”