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April 16, 2018

Fakhar, Imam receive maiden call-ups for Ireland, England Tests


April 16, 2018

LAHORE: Pakistan included five uncapped players in the 16-man squad announced on Sunday for their Tests against Ireland and England starting next month, with an eye on the World Cup next year.

The five include openers Fakhar Zaman, 28, and Imam-ul-Haq, 22. Batsmen Usman Salahuddin and Saad Ali, and all-rounder Faheem Ashraf are the other three uncapped members of the squad.

“The World Cup next year is in England. So we’ve decided to call up several young players to give them exposure to those conditions,” chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said at a press conference.

“This is a great opportunity for our batsmen to gain experience in this conditions.”Pakistan suffered a major setback last week when ace leg-spinner Yasir Shah was ruled out of the tour with a hip bone fracture.

Shah was replaced with young spinner Shadab Khan, who has only played one Test.“Yasir’s absence is a big loss for us,” Inzamam said.“If we look at his numbers for the last two years, he has more wickets than any other bowler for Pakistan. He was our strike bowler. He played a big part in all the games we won.”

Inzamam said the selectors had tried to strengthen the side’s batting, which was weakened after the retirement last year of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.However, once again there was no place in the squad for 32-year-old batsman Fawad Alam despite his strong domestic form. He was named in the preliminary group of 25.

Haris Sohail, who retains his place in the side, may find himself in a crucial all-round role with his part-time spin. Other than Shadab, he is the only player in the squad capable of providing a spin option of any potency, and may find himself being turned to if Pakistan are to avoid overburdening Shadab.

Fakhar’s Test inclusion may look out of place, given his reputation as a dasher, but he had initially come to prominence for his first-class performance in the 2016-17 season, when he scored 663 runs at 51, including a best of 170 in the final. That he scored those runs at a strike rate of 54 suggests a capacity to call upon powers of concentration.

Faheem seems certain to make his debut, his ever-improving bowling meaning Pakistan will look to him to balance their line-up.

There are few surprises in the bowling department. After coach Mickey Arthur’s comments last week made clear his displeasure with Wahab Riaz, it was inevitable he wouldn’t feature on this tour. Rahat Ali made a comeback into the squad, with Mohammad Amir set to lead the pace attack also featuring Mohammad Abbas and Hasan Ali.

Sarfraz Ahmed, the captain, is the only specialist wicketkeeper in the squad.

Pakistan begin their tour on May 11 against Ireland in the hosts’ first ever Test match. They then go on to play a two-match series against England at Lord’s on May 24 and Leeds on June 1.

Squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain, wk), Azhar Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Sami Aslam, Haris Sohail, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Saad Ali, Asad Shafiq, Usman Salahuddin, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Rahat Ali, Faheem Ashraf.

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