Shadab Khan set to return for England clash; Babar Azam trains hard at nets

Kolkata: All-rounder Shadab Khan looked set for a comeback after recovering from a concussion, while skipper Babar Azam was focused on finally making a mark in the tournament as Pakistan on Wednesday had a full-fledged net session ahead of their must-win World Cup match against England here.

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Following two days’ of unwinding in Kolkata, the Pakistani players had a three-hour long practice session in the afternoon focussing on all the three departments of the game.

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Shadab started rolling his arm for the first time after their match against South Africa in which he was ruled out due to concussion.

The 25-year-old had an awkward fall while fielding and was hit on his head. He had to be replaced by rookie leg-spinner Usama Mir as a concussion substitute and then went on to miss their last two matches against Bangladesh and New Zealand.

Shadab bowled with full intent and was also seen batting at the nets.

Babar’s inconsistency has been a bit of a letdown for Pakistan in the batting department.

He has four half-centuries from eight innings and not once the No. 3 batter has been able to convert it into a triple-digit score. Babar also has lost his No. 1 ODI batter ranking.

Due for a big knock, Babar was the last to pad up but was seen spending the maximum time at the nets especially against their pace sensation Shaheen Shah Afridi.

He also employed sweep shots to the spinners to counter the likes of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali in spin-friendly Eden conditions.

Pacer Haris Rauf, who had an injury scare on his left rib and went for an MRI, was also seen in full flow.

Batting pitch

A “fresh” wicket, which was yet to be used in this World Cup, will be on offer for Pakistan’s crucial clash on Saturday.

The wicket sported some green patches three days before the game and Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) curator Sujan Mukherjee said it would be a “good batting track”.

“The track is offering spin and behaving differently because of dew this time around. I’m not sure how much grass will be kept, there’s still some time left for the match,” Mukherjee told PTI.

The Eden track has behaved tricky this time and only once in three matches 300-plus total was achieved, that too after much struggle by the Indian batters against South Africa.

In reply, the batting-heavy South Africa folded for 83.

Their campaign hanging by thread, Pakistan are vying for the fourth spot and set up a semifinal clash with table-toppers India.

New Zealand, Pakistan and Afghanistan have eight points each, separated by net run-rate, as all face must-win situations.

While New Zealand will take on Sri Lanka, Afghanistan face the toughest challenge facing South Africa in their concluding group stage match.

Australia and South Africa are set to clash in the other semifinal.

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