Waqar Younis has called on Pakistan's openers, including Mohammad Hafeez, to 'fire up' [AFP]

Pakistan’s head coach Waqar Younis has delivered a stern warning to opening pair Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad ahead of Tuesday’s Cricket World Cup clash against New Zealand.

Hafeez and Shehzad have only given their side first-wicket starts of 11, 28 and 16 in Pakistan's victories against Kenya, Sri Lanka and Canada in Group A, and Waqar said it was time to start delivering World Cup runs.

"We have to show real improvement in our batting, especially our openers who have not done well," said Waqar.

Pakistan defeated Canada by 46 runs in their last match, after being bowled out for a disappointing 184 against the Group A minnows.

Crunch time

With the next game looming against a buoyant New Zealand, Waqar said the openers need to give Pakistan some solid starts in the games ahead.

"I am sure they will come good in the remaining three matches because, after that all matches are knockout matches,'' he said.

"Both openers know they have not fired yet, but I'm not worried because there is no problem with their techniques, they were in good form coming into the World Cup, so I am sure they will come good soon."

The big question for Pakistan emerging after the first two weeks of World Cup action is how long their skipper Shahid Afridi can deliver and win matches for them virtually alone.

Afridi has led his team from the front with 14 wickets, the highest haul so far in the competition, in wins of varying quality.

While openers are struggling on the slower pitches of the subcontinent, experienced batsmen Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan and young Umar Akmal have taken on the main run-scoring duties in the three matches so far.

However, Pakistan's lower batting order struggled against Canada's seamers and the team was bowled out for a particularly modest 184 in 43 overs.

"We have to show real improvement in batting,'' Waqar said.

"After poor batting against Canada, I hope others will also take responsibility - especially the openers.''

Strong attack

Inexperienced Canada were in sight of a major World Cup upset and were cruising at 104-3 before Afridi (5-23) rattled the middle-order with his faster legspinners and bowled out the North Americans for 138 in 42.5 overs.

But Waqar is also clearly aware that against tougher opponents like New Zealand and defending champions Australia, Pakistan's batsmen will have to find more runs for their bowlers to defend.

"Our bowling is doing well and is supporting the batting, but we would have had a serious problem defending a 185-run target against stronger opposition."

Waqar Younis

"Our bowling is doing well and is supporting the batting, but we would have had a serious problem defending a 185-run target against stronger opposition."

Afridi has so far won all three spins of the coins, but has not taken the opportunity to chase against Kenya, Sri Lanka and Canada.

Waqar would like to see a change in that approach and put some pressure on the batsmen before the quarterfinals, by bowling first against New Zealand, Zimbabwe or Australia in the remaining games.

"It would be a great test of our batsmen when we chase a target because that adds to the pressure,'' Waqar said.

"We want to field first in one of the games so that our batsmen get the opportunity to chase.''

Team manager Intikhab Alam said left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman has shown progress and will be available for selection after missing the Canada match after leg muscle injury.

Source: Agencies