Shoaib Akhtar Image Credit: IANS

London: Pleased with Pakistan’s convincing win over South Africa in their crucial World Cup fixture, former speedster Shoaib Akhtar is hoping that Sarfaraz Ahmad and the boys play fearless cricket in the remaining games and make it to the semi-finals.

“I recommend Pakistan to hold their ground, play pressure-free cricket, play according to the best of their abilities and display their talent,” Akhtar said on Monday in a video posted on his YouTube channel.

With five points from six games, Pakistan are now at the seventh spot in the points table. They will next face New Zealand on Wednesday. After that, they play Afghanistan and Bangladesh on Saturday and July 5, respectively. If Pakistan manage to win all their remaining three fixtures and results of matches of other teams go in their favour, the 1992 champions can secure a spot in the last four.

“Pakistan have a good chance of making it to the semi-finals. They need to play fearless cricket without any pressure. If England lose their three matches against Australia, India and New Zealand, Pakistan can come through,” said Akhtar.

“South Africa looked disintegrated. After losing the toss, their morale went down. Their batters, especially Quinton de Kock, didn’t look interested in getting South Africa out of hot waters by scoring a hundred. Faf looked a very average captain. The bowlers could not manage to bring out the magic.”

The Rawalpindi Express was full of praise of Harris Sohail, saying that his inclusion — in place of Shoaib Malek — in the playing XI made the difference.

“I was constantly saying that Haris Sohail should be included in the playing XI because he is a very compact player. Against South Africa, he showed how to score runs. In fact he looked better than Babar Azam. Haris provided the thrust and helped Pakistan get a total in excess of 300,” said Akhtar

Former skipper Waqar Younis also echoed Akhtar’s views, saying the green-shirts badly needed such a win. “Pakistan had been criticised a lot for Old Trafford loss against India and the last week has been hard on them, so coming out of that and producing such a performance was particularly pleasing,” ICC press release quoted Waqar as saying.

He said Sohail was a breath of fresh air. “He played magnificently well, and ultimately, his innings of 89 off just 59 balls was the difference,” he added.