Saqlain tells Pakistan not to lower guard against ‘fearless’ Afghanistan

DUBAI: Pakistan have kick-started their Twenty20 World Cup campaign by winning both their grudge matches but coach Saqlain Mushtaq insists they cannot afford to lower their guard against a “fearless” Afghanistan in Friday’s Super 12 contest.

The 2009 champions began with a 10-wicket romp against arch-rivals India, also their first ever win against their neighbours in a World Cup.

A highly charged-up Pakistan beat New Zealand by five wickets in their next match, which was played against the backdrop of bad blood between the sides.

Angered by New Zealand’s abrupt cancellation of a limited-overs tour of Pakistan last month over security apprehensions, Pakistan players were motivated to make a point in the contest.

After those high-profile matches, stakes will be relatively lower when they meet Afghanistan but Saqlain said there were no rooms for complacency.

“The boys put their heart and soul in the first two matches,” Saqlain, who took over as the interim head coach just before the tournament, told reporters on Thursday.

“The confidence and the self-belief we got from those two matches, we have to take it forward.

“Regardless of who we face, whether it’s Afghanistan or any other team, we need to play that brand of cricket and execute our plans with that mindset.

“If we can’t do that, it would come back to bite us.”

Afghanistan thumped Scotland by 130 runs in their opener and will rely on their formidable three-pronged spin attack to try and pull off an upset against Pakistan.

“It’s a strong unit. We can’t really say ‘that’s very easy and you will roll over them’,” former test spinner Saqlain said.

“They have a wonderful bowling attack, especially the spinners, and they bat the way they feel like.

“They just play sort of a fearless cricket. I think that kind of team can be dangerous.

“World Cup, it’s a mega-event. You play all the teams with the same intensity, with the same attitude, with the same mindset…”