Pakistan keen to carry on Cardiff love-affair –for Champions Trophy 2017

The Welsh capital has been a favorite venue for the subcontinent underdogs, and they hope to spring a surprise on the hosts in the first semi-final.

Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed hopes the team’s “high confidence” in Cardiff will stand them in good stead when they return to the Welsh capital to face England in a Champions Trophy semi-final on Wednesday.

It will be Pakistan’s second key match at Sophia Gardens in a matter of days after a thrilling three-wicket victory against Sri Lanka there on Monday saw them into the last four of a tournament featuring the world’s top eight one-day international (ODI) sides.

Pakistan, chasing a seemingly modest 237 for victory, were on the brink of defeat at 6-137.

But Sarfraz made Sri Lanka pay for dropping him twice with a superb 61 not out and received excellent support from Mohammad Amir (28 not out) in a decisive and unbroken eighth-wicket stand of 75.

It was Sarfraz’s second impressive innings at Cardiff after the wicket-keeper’s 90 on the same ground last year saw Pakistan chase down a target of 303 against England in a four-wicket win that prevented an ODI series whitewash.

“We played the last ODI here. We win that time, we chased 300, so definitely our confidence is very high playing in Cardiff,” Sarfraz told reporters after Monday’s triumph.

England, however, have arguably improved their white-ball game even more since that series.

They’ve won 11 of their past 12 matches at this level, a far cry from their woeful first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup, and Eoin Morgan’s men were the only side to exit the group stage of the Champions Trophy with a perfect played three, won three, record.

“England is a very good team, a very, very good team,” said Sarfraz of the tournament hosts.

“If you are playing a world-class team, definitely, you play more positive cricket, so we will do so against England,” he added.

But Sri Lanka might well have won had they dismissed Sarfraz, with Thisara Perera guilty of dropping a simple catch at mid-on when he had made 38.

“If we had held those catches, it would have been a different story,” said Sri Lanka captain Angelo Mathews.

Pakistan certainly made far harder work than they ought to have done of getting to the knockout stage in a winner-takes-all clash given they bowled Sri Lanka out for 236, with pacemen Junaid Khan (3-40) and Hasan Ali (3-43) doing the bulk of the damage.

“I think it’s a great win today, and credit goes to the bowlers, who bowled really well at a crucial time,” said Sarfraz.

“Yes, there is a little bit of concern about the middle order batting, but we will sort out the problems.”

A two-day turnaround does not leave much time to address such issues but, then again, Pakistan only needed three days to bounce back from a 124-run thrashing by arch-rivals and title-holders India in their tournament opener before defeating top-ranked South Africa.

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