Hambantota: Pakistan is gearing up to face Kenya at the World Cup on Wednesday in its first competitive match since three of its players were banned for spot-fixing earlier this month.
Pakistan will go into the Group A game without former captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir - who were all handed minimum five-year bans by an International Cricket Council tribunal.
The three men, who had been provisionally suspended by the ICC, were found guilty of corruption after newspaper allegations that they bowled predetermined no-balls in a test match against England last August.
Though the absence of fast bowlers Asif and Amir is bound to make itself felt at the World Cup, Pakistan still has enough experienced players to be a threat at the tournament.
The proof of that threat arrived only recently when it defeated future Group A opponent New Zealand 3-2 in a limited overs series that drew to a close on the same day the ICC delivered its verdict.
Asked about the victory in New Zealand, coach Waqar Younis said Monday: "That really gave us the momentum. The day after tomorrow hopefully we are going to win comfortably and go into the World Cup with some flair."
Pakistan, which won the World Cup in 1992, should reach the quarterfinals with weaker teams likes Zimbabwe and Canada also in its group. But its coach said the knockout stage would test the top sides.
"You have plenty of games to play before you reach the quarterfinals," Younis said. "I think the real World Cup starts with the quarterfinals. Before that, you have to make sure to get the rhythm right because after that it will be a different ball game."
Reigning champion Australia and co-host Sri Lanka are the other teams in Pakistan's group with the top four qualifying for the next stage.
The coach expects his senior pros Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, and Shoaib Akhtar to come good in what will almost certainly be their last World Cup.
Pakistan won all its previous five one-day internationals against Kenya, the last one being played in Birmingham in 2004 during the Champions Trophy. They now meet for the first time in a World Cup match.
Pakistan had mixed results in its two World Cup warmup matches, beating Bangladesh and losing to England in a game for which captain Shahid Afridi and allrounder Abdul Razzaq were rested.
The only worry now for Younis is the fitness of Akhtar as Pakistan will need his pace in key games against the likes of Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Australia.
Kenya, which qualified for 2003 World Cup semifinals, will be expecting a better show from its batsmen after a bad start in India.
"We need to be putting (on) some scores to be competing at least," captain Jimmy Kamande said after the defeat.
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (C), Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal (WK), Azhar Ali, Kamran Akmal (WK), Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Tanvir, Asad Shafiq, Junaid Khan
Kenya: Jimmy Kamande (C), Tanmay Mishra, James Ngoche, Shem Ngoche, Alex Obanda, David Obuya, Collins Obuya, Nehemiah Odhiambo, Thomas Odoyo, Peter Ongondo, Elijah Otieno, Maurice Ouma (WK), Rakep Patel, Steve Tikolo, Seren Waters
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Wednesday February 23, 2011 (day/night)
Start time 14:30 local (09:00 GMT)