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Fitness and fielding key behind Pakistan’s T20 rise – Sarfraz

Pakistan faced a humiliating exit from the Asia Cup. Then, they let go of a sure shot win at Dubai to allow Australia a draw in the first of the two-match Test series. But, when the three-match T20I series began last week, they roared their authority to secure their 10th consecutive T20I series win by registering a 3-0 whitewash against the tourists.

Something of this sort happened before as well. In fact, earlier this year. After being whitewashed 5-0 in the one-dayers by New Zealand in New Zealand – also their next opposition – Pakistan lost the first of the three T20Is. Such had been their thumping throughout the tour that the final two T20Is looked a mere formality. But, Pakistan staged an epic comeback to win the series.

After their clean sweep of the Australian side, Pakistan is now guaranteed to stay at the number one spot in the ICC T20I rankings regardless of the result of their series against New Zealand. It will not be an exaggeration to suggest that Pakistan has mastered the T20 format. So, when their captain Sarfraz Ahmed talked to the reporters at Abu Dhabi on the eve of the T20I series against Kane Williamson’s men, he was asked to speak about his side’s continued success in the format.

“What differentiates us [from the other teams] is the energy that younger players have brought to the side,” Sarfraz said. “Our fielding is getting better. Our fielders click when the team needs a good catch or a good run out. The fielding has gotten extraordinary which was on display in the previous series. In my opinion, it is our fitness and fielding that differentiates us.”

Sarfraz is now looking to carry the winning momentum into the New Zealand T20Is by thumping their authority right from the start. He unveiled a 12-man squad – that includes Shaheen Afridi and the playing XI of Pakistan’s previous T20I – for the first match. Shoaib Malik, who became the father earlier in the day, will join the squad on the day of the first T20I and will feature in the playing XI. Due to a niggle in his knee, Fakhar Zaman was unavailable for the first T20I.

“It is an important series for us,” Sarfraz said. “The previous series against Australia is history now. New Zealand is a good team and they have been performing in T20 cricket. We will try to carry the momentum. The first match of is always of extreme importance. So, we will try to begin the series on a good note.

“Both teams [Australia and New Zealand] have their strengths, but I still feel that the Australian team was stronger. They had match-winners in their side who can win the games any day. [Glenn] Maxwell took the [second] match very close after he spent some time [at the crease].

“Both teams have good players. New Zealand have [Colin] Munro, [Kane] Williamson with that their fast-bowling department is quite strong. Adam Milne has returned to the side with that they have Luke Ferguson and Tim Southee. Their team is also very strong and we will look forward to continuing our good run.”

The second and third T20Is will be played at Dubai on November 2 and 4.

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