CARDIFF: Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur has insisted his side will not settle for simply reaching the Champions Trophy semi-final against England as he urged them to go ‘one step further’.
Arthur’s men were the lowest-ranked side when this tournament featuring the world’s top eight One-day International (ODI) teams got underway.
And their fans could have been forgiven for thinking the worst when Pakistan suffered a 124-run thrashing by arch-rivals and title-holders India in their Group ‘B’ opener, with Arthur himself branding the team’s performance ‘shambolic’.
Yet they bounced back within days to defeat top-ranked South Africa, before sealing a last-four clash with tournament hosts England in Cardiff on Wednesday thanks to Monday’s nail-biting three-wicket win over Sri Lanka in the Welsh capital.
Pakistan, chasing 237 to win, slumped to 162-7 before an unbroken eighth-wicket stand of 75 between skipper Sarfraz Ahmed (61 not out) and Mohammad Amir (28 not out) saw them to a dramatic win.
All of Pakistan’s matches so far in the tournament have either been in Birmingham or Cardiff but with Sunday’s final at the Oval, Arthur told reporters in Cardiff on Tuesday: “We want to end up in London. We certainly didn’t want to be just making up the numbers in this competition, and we’ve shown that we weren’t.
“Now we need to go one step further and never be satisfied. The last thing I want is for us to go away now thinking that we got to a semi-final, we’re okay, we’ve achieved, because that would be a cop-out in my mind.”
England, the only team in the semi-finals with a perfect played three, won three group record, will be favourites on Wednesday and Arthur said: “We’ve got nothing to lose, yes, but we’ve always said we’re in it to win it.
“We know that realistically England are playing unbelievably well. They’re a really, really good one-day unit with no apparent weaknesses.”
But Pakistan did beat England by four wickets in an ODI in Cardiff last year, albeit the Durham duo of Mark Wood and Ben Stokes will be England’s only survivors from their bowling attack that match come Wednesday’s clash.
“At the end of the [Sri Lanka] game, we stressed that we need to play our best game, and if we play our best game, we can put them [England] under pressure,” Arthur explained. “Then it’s about taking those moments, and running with them, like we did last year here in Cardiff.
“So, hopefully, we can put our best game together tomorrow [Wednesday], and then who knows?”
Arthur said a scrappy win over Sri Lanka would do wonders for his side, saying: “When you win ugly, you learn a lot about the team. So I guess it gives a lot of confidence.”
England, meanwhile, are considering changing their top order for the game against Pakistan, captain Eoin Morgan said on Tuesday, indicating that they will replace out-of-form opener Jason Roy with Jonny Bairstow.
“There is a chance there will be a change,” said Morgan. “Jonny Bairstow is our next man in line. He is a very fine batsman. One thing he does exceptionally well is deal with no baggage.
“He comes in and wants to prove everyone wrong the whole time, it’s been a huge attribute in him scoring runs when he has had a chance.”
South African-born Roy, who watched Tuesday’s net session with arms folded from the sidelines, has scored 51 runs in eight ODIs this summer and was dismissed second ball in England’s final group game against Australia.
England have previously insisted that players would be allowed to bat themselves back into form.
“Everyone goes through a bad run and that’s expected,” Morgan said of Roy. “If someone happens to miss out then they’re not going to be too far away from our plans in the future.”
Bairstow is in prime form after striking a career-best 174 off 113 balls while opening for his county Yorkshire against Durham last month. But the 27-year-old has never filled the role in an ODI and they could decide to juggle the order and promote Moeen Ali.
Either way England will go into the game as favourites after winning 11 out of 12 ODIs and posting in excess of 300 in five of the past six matches in which they have batted first.
While Roy has failed, every other batsman has hit form with Alex Hales (151), Joe Root (212), Eoin Morgan (175) and Ben Stokes (150) among the top 11 tournament run scorers.
In 47 ODIs since their abject failure at the 2015 World Cup England batsmen have scored 25 centuries, compared with 22 in 88 matches during the previous four years.
Pakistan came into the tournament as the eighth-ranked team but Morgan will be wary of a side who clearly relish conditions in Cardiff where last year they chased down a target of 303 to beat England, with Sarfraz Ahmed hitting 90.