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September 18, 2009

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Pakistan eyes 2nd major title

HAVING already won the Twenty20 World Cup, Pakistan is targeting a second major 2009 title at the upcoming Champions Trophy despite a less-than-impressive history in the competition.

"Our past performance in Champions Trophy is not that much encouraging, but the way we have trained for this year's tournament, I'm sure we can perform well," coach Intikhab Alam said yesterday.

Pakistan has not reached the final in any of the five previous editions of the Champions Trophy - the biggest 50-over tournament behind the World Cup.

"It's a tough tournament, but we are going to South Africa with a target to win it," Alam said as the team prepared to leave for Johannesburg.

Pakistan will play two warm-up matches before taking on the West Indies in its first group game on September 23.

Pakistan, which has never beaten India in a major ICC tournament, takes on its arch rival on September 26 before rounding off its group matches against defending champion Australia on September 29.

South Africa, New Zealand, England and Sri Lanka form the other group, with the top two teams from each qualifying for the semifinals.

India and Australia both have hit peak form ahead of the Champions Trophy. India won a triangular series over Sri Lanka and New Zealand, while Australia is on verge of whitewashing England in their 7-match one-day series.

However, Alam is not worried about the form of his group opponents.

"The team which handles the pressure on the given day wins in a 50-over game," Alam said.

Captain Younis Khan is also keenly looking forward to the opportunity to finally beat India in a big tournament.

"I want to change the history and win against them (India)," Khan said.

"I would enjoy a lot if we chase the target against India and beat them in a mega event.

"If Pakistan team plays to its mood and potential it can beat any team."

Pakistan and England are the only teams in the eight-team competition which have not won a Champions Trophy.

Pakistan has kept faith on its experienced middle-order batsmen Shoaib Malik, Misbah-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf despite a 3-2 loss in the one-day series against Sri Lanka. Former captain Javed Miandad supervised a five-day batting camp at Karachi where batsmen even trained on marble slabs to get experience on slick pitches.

Fast bowler Mohammad Asif will join the squad when his one-year doping ban ends on September 22, while allrounder Rana Naved returns after severing his ties with non-sanctioned Indian Cricket League.

"It's difficult to make a comeback after such a long time, Asif has not even trained with us due to one-year ban," Khan said.


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