Pakistan eyeing WC second round after a hiatus of 12 years

Colombo: Pakistan will look to end a 12-year wait and seal a place in the knockout stage of the cricket World Cup when they take on minnows Canada in their group A match at R Premadasa stadium on Thursday.

Following wins against Kenya and Sri Lanka, Pakistan are almost certain of qualifying for the quarter-finals if they win Thursday’s match.

Pakistan`s last two campaigns had ended in disaster as the 1992 champions made a first round exit in 2003 in South Africa and four years later in the West Indies.

Coming into the mega-event in the backdrop of spot-fixing scandal, Pakistan has managed to maintain a clean slate so far but Canada has struggled in their two games so far.

Canada lost their first game to Sri Lanka by a massive 210 runs in Hambantota and then were beaten by Zimbabwe by 175 runs in Nagpur.

But Pakistan is in no mood to take the minnows lightly.

"Because of the importance of the tournament we are not going to take any team easy," Pakistan coach Waqar Younis said ahead of the game.

"We played well against Sri Lanka but tomorrow is another game and we need to carry on the momentum. It`s still early days in the tournament and bigger teams will come but we are not thinking far ahead," he added.

Coming into the tournament, Pakistan were not one of the fancied sides due to the spot fixing controversy and disputes over captaincy.

But Pakistan`s first two matches showed that they seem to have put everything behind as their focus has been on winning the competition.

Even Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara, after his side`s 11-run defeat on Saturday, had called Pakistan a `dangerous side`.

Pakistan`s strength is its strong bowling attack and surprisingly skipper Shahid Afridi has been the most successful among the lot with nine wickets from the two games.

Ageing star Shoaib Akhtar has also provided breakthroughs when needed although Umar Gul is yet to fire and his place could be in danger as Pakistan has the option of playing Wahab Riaz.

The team management would also like to give Abdul Razzak a chance to bat up the order as he batted at number eight in the first two games despite being immensely talented.

Pakistan`s batsmen, on other hand, have done a decent job with the middle-order, including experienced Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, clicking in the first two games.

Going by the form, Pakistan are unlikely to be troubled by Canada and the Associate side will have a chance to learn a thing or two from the 1992 champions.

The tournament is nearing three weeks and although there has been the odd match-fixing allegation against other teams, no accusation has been levelled against Pakistan and that pleased coach Waqar Younis.

"It feels great. The entire tournament is fair and pretty clean as far as I am concerned," Waqar added.

Teams (From)

Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (C), Misbah-ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Ahmed Shehzad, Asad Shafiq, Junaid Khan, Kamran Akmal (Wicketkeeper), Mohammad Hafeez, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz and Younis Khan.

Canada: Ashish Bagai (C), Rizwan Cheema, Harvir Baidwan, Nitish Kumar, Hiral Patel, Tyson Gordon, Henry Osinde, John Davison, Ruvindu Gunasekera, Parth Desai, Karl Whatham, Khurram Chohan, Jimmy Hansra, Zubin Surkari and Balaji Rao.

Umpires: Daryl Harper (Aus) and Nigel Llong (Eng)

Third Umpire: Tony Hill (NZ)

Match Referee: Chris Broad (Eng)

Match starts at 14:30 hrs.