Pakistan include Sohail Khan, Haider Ali in 29-player squad for England tour


Pakistan have recalled fast bowler Sohail Khan for the upcoming tour of the UK, naming the 36-year-old in a large 29-player squad that will stay together for the entire duration of three Tests and three T20Is. The extended squad, featuring a mix of Azhar Ali-led Test and Babar Azam-led T20I players, has been named to address the SOP and quarantine requirements for the Covid-19 pandemic.

The squad, picked with “one eye on the future”, also features Pakistan U19 player Haider Ali, who impressed in the latest edition of the U19 World Cup and then for Peshawar Zalmi in the Pakistan Super League shortly after. Kashif Bhatti is the other uncapped player in the squad. While this is a maiden call-up for Ali, Bhatti has been a part of the squad against Australia and Sri Lanka and couldn’t get a chance to feature in the playing XI.

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Sohail last played Test cricket in 2016, and had two five-wicket hauls on Pakistan’s tour of England that same year. In the latest edition of Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Sohail picked 22 wickets in nine matches — a statistic that doesn’t quite reflect his performance. “The selectors also felt he bowled much better in the 2019-20 domestic season than his figures reflected,” head coach and selector Misbah-ul-Haq argued.

Apart from two uncapped players and centrally contracted players, the squad is further populated by Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Imran Khan, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz. The selectors have also named four reserve players in Bilal Asif, Imran Butt, Musa Khan and Mohammad Nawaz. In case any of the main squad players fail the pre-tour Covid-19 testing scheduled on June 20 and 25, the reserve players will slot right in.

Hasan Ali, recovering from a back injury, was unavailable for selection while Mohammad Amir and Haris Sohail pulled out of contention owing to personal reasons.

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“The selectors have picked a squad which gives us the best chance of success in England,” Misbah said. “It was a challenging process as the players have not played for an extended period of time, but nevertheless, with the month that we will have in England and the intense training we will undergo, we are confident we will get the players up to the mark to be ready for the three Tests.

“But the main focus of the selectors has been red-ball cricket, which we will play for nearly two months with the T20Is to be played at the backend of the ICC World Test Championship fixtures.

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“The series against England will be challenging as our players have not played any competitive cricket since March, while the home team will come following a series against the West Indies. This means we will have to hit the ground running as soon as we land in England and make the best use of the training sessions and match practice before we enter the first Test.”

The backroom staff boasts of Pakistan legends Younis Khan (batting coach for the tour), Mushtaq Ahmed (spin bowling coach for the tour) and Waqar Younis (bowling coach) apart from a host of other former players, from whom Misbah wants the squad “to acquire as much cricket knowledge as possible.”

Squad: Abid Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (Test vice-captain and T20I captain), Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Haider Ali, Iftikhar Ahmad, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Imran Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sohail Khan, Usman Shinwari, Wahab Riaz, Imad Wasim, Kashif Bhatti, Shadab Khan, and Yasir Shah