Batsman Irfan sets sights on ICC U19 Cricket World Cup quarter-finals

LAHORE:Mianwali-born middle-order batsman Mohammad Irfan Khan has remained a permanent fixture of Pakistan U19 sides since appearing in the seven-match series against South Africa U19 in June 2019.

The tall right-handed batsman who is one of the best fielders in the side has also played all three Group C fixtures of the ongoing ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2020 being played in South Africa.

Irfan made a big impact in Pakistan’s 7-0 sweep of the 50-over matches’ series in South Africa scoring 208 runs in four innings including an innings of 122, he averaged 69.33.

His impressive show made his selection for the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup easy coupled with his fitness and fielding abilities.

In Pakistan U19’s tournament opener against Scotland, Irfan was promoted from his lower-order position to number four by head coach Ijaz Ahmed.

Irfan looked at ease in his unbeaten 38-run innings which helped his side overcome the minnows by seven wickets. Irfan hit six fours in his 37-ball innings.

Irfan has also dazzled in the field with some fine catches in the slips and inside the 30-yard circle.

Against Zimbabwe, Irfan contributed 15 off 18 balls in a 41-run stand with Mohammad Haris.

He then made a stunning contribution in the field by taking an extraordinary catch at mid-wicket diving full length and catching the ball with his right hand to dismiss Zimbabwe captain Dion Myers.

Myers had threatened to take the game away from Pakistan as the African side were placed at 186 for two in the 36th over when Irfan took the catch. Irfan took a total of three catches in the match; his tournament tally so far is six catches (three against Zimbabwe, two against Scotland and one against Bangladesh).

Irfan wants to continue to make an all-round contribution as Pakistan aim to seal a semi-final spot by overcoming Afghanistan in the quarter-final clash at Benoni’s Willowmoore Park on Friday.

Mohammad Irfan Khan said on Tuesday : “So far it has been a team effort from our side. Mohammad Haris and Qasim Akram have especially batted very well and led the way for us while our bowlers have given collective performances which have helped us in our qualification for the quarter-finals. The bowlers were brilliant against Bangladesh. Similarly, our fielding has been good too with Haris, Qasim and Haider especially doing very well.

“Against Scotland, I batted higher in the order as coaches trusted my ability and sent me to bat at number four. There wasn’t much pressure and I was able to play my natural game. [On the catch against Zimbabwe], the ball was travelling as they were playing shots, I kept thinking that if a chance comes to me I will grab it and won’t give a second chance to the batsmen, luckily it turned out that way. I really enjoy fielding and our fielding coach also works very hard with us, I have been selected in many sides due to my fielding abilities alone.

“My natural game is aggressive, I like to play my shots as I have played a lot of limited overs cricket. I like to hit big. My favourite player is Shane Watson.

“In the quarter-final our aim would be to score big runs and then restrict the opposition and keep things simple in the chase if we are to chase a target, we should aim to chase it down quickly. We have put in a big effort in our build-up to this tournament and since coming here hopefully we will get the rewards.

“In the longer run my aim is to represent Pakistan and serve the senior team for a long time.”

Pakistan have started training and underwent a rigorous practice and training session for the second consecutive day in Benoni after arriving in Johannesburg on Sunday (team’s base for the quarter-final match).

Pakistan ICC U19 Cricket World Cup squad:

Rohail Nazir (captain and wicketkeeper), Abbas Afridi (Peshawar), Abdul Wahid Bangalzai (Quetta), Amir Ali (Larkana), Amir Khan (Peshawar), Arish Ali Khan (Karachi), Fahad Munir (Lahore), Haider Ali (vice-captain), Qasim Akram (Lahore), Mohammad Haris (Peshawar), Mohammad Huraira (Sialkot), Mohammad Irfan Khan (Lahore), Mohammad Shehzad (Multan), Mohammad Wasim Jnr (North Waziristan), Tahir Hussain (Multan)

Team management – Ijaz Ahmed (head coach-cum-manager), Rao Iftikhar Anjum (bowling coach), Abdul Majeed (assistant coach), Saboor Ahmad (trainer), Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rasul (physiotherapist), Usman Hashmi (analyst), Emmad Ahmed Hameed (media manager) and Col (retd) Usman Riffat Anwari (security manager).