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Pakistan set for top-order changes

ICC Cricket World Cup 2011

Ahmed Shehzad & Canada

Ahmed Shehzad looks set to make way for the returning Umar Akmal when Pakistan face Australia in their last Group A match

Pakistan look set to try a new opening pair in their final Group A match against Australia, with Ahmed Shehzad’s loss of form set to cost him a place at the top of the order.

Kamran Akmal is set to partner Mohammed Hafeez in Saturday’s match, as Shehzad - who has 44 runs in five games - has failed to provide a “single good start” in the tournament, according to captain Shahid Afridi.

Pakistan have not had a substantial contribution from the top order, with 28 against Sri Lanka - when Shehzad made his tournament top score of 13 - their highest opening stand.

His opening partner Hafeez has also struggled with the bat - 49 against Zimbabwe being his highest score - but the right-hander’s ability to share bowling responsibilities means he is in line to keep his place in the team.

Pakistan have been forced to turn to Kamran despite dropping him down the order last time out against Zimbabwe following his poor form with the bat.

But Afridi defended the move to drop Shehzad and said the change in the batting order would allow the wicketkeeper to find his rhythm.

"Ahmed is a talented kid but he has not really learnt from his mistakes,” Afridi said.

“We have been showing faith in his abilities but Ahmed has failed to give us a single good start and now we are thinking about going into the match against Australia with a new opening pair.

“The best option we have is to promote Kamran as an opener. He has scored a lot of runs playing at that position and has the sort of experience we will need against a top-class bowling side like Australia at the start of our innings.”

Kamran played four of Pakistan’s initial World Cup games at number three but was replaced by Asad Shafiq, who scored 78 not out in Monday's seven-wicket win against Zimbabwe at Pallekele.

"Asad made full use of the opportunity that was given to him and that's a sign of a good cricketer," Afridi added.

Pakistan will also bring back Umar Akmal, who missed the game against Zimbabwe because of an injured finger, for Saturday’s match.

"Umar is fully fit and that's good for us because he is one of our key players." Afridi concluded.