Napier: Pakistan will target a huge improvement in batting to boost their net run-rate in the World Cup Pool B match against minnows United Arab Emirates in Napier on Wednesday.
Pakistan`s long standing batting woes have continued in the tournament as they lost their opening game against arch-rivals India by 76 runs and went down by a big 150-run margin in their second to the West Indies.
The 1992 champions finally opened their World Cup account with a scrappy 20-run win over Zimbabwe in Brisbane on Sunday and skipper Misbah-ul-Haq warned his team cannot afford any more slip-ups.
"From now on we have to play every game as it is a knock out match," said Misbah whose team also face a tough game against in-form South Africa in Auckland (March 8) and a dangerous Ireland in Adelaide on March 15.
"I think the top order is always the key, and if we really want to go further in this World Cup, we have to improve that," said Misbah of the openers who in the last 10 one-dayers have six single-digit stands, five of them one run or less.
Pakistan tried veteran Younis Khan as opener in the first match but that backfired.
Pakistan were 1-4 against the West Indies at Christchurch in the worst-ever start in all one-day internationals, while they were 4-2 against Zimbabwe with Nasir Jamshed and Ahmed Shehzad failing on both occasions.
Pakistan struggled to score 235-7 against Zimbabwe, a total Misbah believed will not help against South Africa.
"If we really want to win against South Africa and we really want progress in this World Cup, we have to come up with some performances, if we keep scoring 200 to 230, 235 runs, it could be really difficult for us to win."
Pakistan with two points in three games are likely to fight the West Indies (two wins in four matches) and Ireland (two wins in two and who face South Africa on Tuesday) for a place in the quarter-finals.
The top four from each of the two pools of seven teams will reach the quarter-finals.
Pakistan will also look to improve their net run-rate which stands at a poor -1.37.
Considering UAE`s weakness against spin, highlighted by Ravichandaran Ashwin`s 4-25 in India`s nine-wicket win on Saturday, Pakistan can bring in leggie Yasir Shah and also Sarfraz Ahmed as opener for Jamshed.
Pakistan have won their two one-day internationals against UAE -- both by nine wickets -- the first in Sharjah in 1994 and the second at Gujranwala in the 1996 World Cup.
UAE have Pakistan-born middle-order batsman Shaiman Anwar as the only bright spot who has scores of 67, 106 and 35 in his team`s three defeats.
But skipper Mohammad Tauqir said the whole tournament is a learning experience for his team.
"Look, we had two good games to start with," said Tauqir of his team`s narrow two-wicket loss to Ireland and four-wicket defeat against Zimbabwe.
"We would like to forget about it and erase this game as soon as possible and would like to do well in the next three games and gain experience.
"This whole tournament is a learning experience for us."