Haider Ali, the Pakistan U19 batsman and one of the players to watch-out for, has been named in a 29-player squad for three Tests and three T20Is against England to be played in August-September. An extended squad, including white-ball specialists, is being sent to England as the players, in accordance with series SOPs in the wake of Covid-19, will remain in England from start to finish.
Haider had an outstanding 2019-20 season, following which he earned an emerging contract for the 2020-21 season.
He was Pakistan U19’s second most successful batsman with 317 runs against South Africa U19 in June, fifth leading run-getter with 218 runs in the ACC Emerging Teams Cup in Bangladesh, aggregated 645 runs – including a century in the final – at just under 50 in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, finished as Pakistan’s third-best batsman with 107 runs in the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup 2020 before contributing 239 runs in nine matches at a strike-rate of over 158 for Peshawar Zalmi in the unfinished HBL Pakistan Super League 2020.
Besides Haider, Sindh’s Kashif Bhatti is the other uncapped player in the side. Kashif was in the Test squad against Australia and Sri Lanka but did not play and was also named in the probables for the Rawalpindi Test against Bangladesh.
Returning to the national colours is fast bowler Sohail Khan, whose ninth and last Test for Pakistan was the 2016 Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. In the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2019-20, he took 22 wickets in nine matches, while he grabbed seven wickets in eight HBL PSL 2020 matches for Quetta Gladiators.
Apart from Haider, Kashif, Sohail and the centrally contracted players, excluding Haris Sohail, the selectors have named Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Imran Khan, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Shoaib Malik and Wahab Riaz.
The selectors have also named four reserves in Bilal Asif, Imran Butt, Musa Khan and Mohammad Nawaz as a cover in case any of the players fail pre-tour Covid-19 testing, which will be carried out on 20 and 25 June.
Fast bowlers Hasan Ali and Mohammad Amir, and middle-order batsman Haris were not available for selection. Hasan is suffering from a back injury, Amir withdrew so that he can be at the birth of his second child in August while Haris took the option of pulling out of the tour due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Sohail's family was concerned about COVID-19, so he requested to withdraw from the tour while Amir has withdrawn so that he can be at the birth of his second child," a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) spokesman confirmed.
Pakistan media reported that Sohail does not like to travel without his family, but they will not allowed on the tour.
Amir retired from Test cricket last year but was due to play in the Twenty20 games.
The breakdown of the 29-player squad is:
Openers (4) – Abid Ali (Sindh, Lahore Qalandars), Fakhar Zaman (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Lahore Qalandars), Imam-ul-Haq (Balochistan, Peshawar Zalmi) and Shan Masood (Southern Punjab, Multan Sultans)
Middle-order batsmen (9) – Azhar Ali (captain) (Central Punjab), Babar Azam (Test vice-captain and T20I captain) (Central Punjab, Karachi Kings), Asad Shafiq (Sindh, Multan Sultans), Fawad Alam (Sindh), Haider Ali (Northern, Peshawar Zalmi), Iftikhar Ahmad (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Karachi Kings), Khushdil Shah (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Multan Sultans), Mohammad Hafeez (Southern Punjab, Lahore Qalandars) and Shoaib Malik (Southern Punjab, Peshawar Zalmi)
Wicketkeepers (2) - Mohammad Rizwan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Karachi Kings) and Sarfaraz Ahmed (Sindh, Quetta Gladiators)
Fast bowlers (10) – Faheem Ashraf (Central Punjab, Islamabad United), Haris Rauf (Northern, Lahore Qalandars), Imran Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Mohammad Abbas (Southern Punjab), Mohammad Hasnain (Sindh, Quetta Gladiators), Naseem Shah (Central Punjab, Quetta Gladiators), Shaheen Shah Afridi (Northern, Lahore Qalandars), Sohail Khan (Sindh, Quetta Gladiators), Usman Shinwari (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Lahore Qalandars) and Wahab Riaz (Southern Punjab, Peshawar Zalmi)
Spinners (4) – Imad Wasim (Northern, Karachi Kings), Kashif Bhatti (Sindh), Shadab Khan (Northern, Islamabad United) and Yasir Shah (Balochistan, Peshawar Zalmi).
Commenting on the squad, chief selector and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said: “The selectors have picked a squad which gives us the best chance of success in England. 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.
“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 players have also been selected with one eye on the future. I want these players to acquire as much cricket knowledge as possible from the additional backroom staff of Mushtaq Ahmed and Younis Khan that can help them post the England tour.
“Sohail Khan has been recalled to further strengthen our fast bowling department. He had two five-fors when he last played in England in 2016. The selectors also felt he bowled much better in the 2019-20 domestic season than his figures reflected.”
Player Support Personnel:
Mansoor Rana (manager), Misbah-ul-Haq (head coach), Shahid Aslam (assistant to head coach), Younis Khan (batting coach), Waqar Younis (bowling coach), Mushtaq Ahmed (spin bowling coach), Abdul Majeed (fielding coach), Talha Butt (team analyst), Yasir Malik (strength and conditioning coach), Cliffe Deacon (physiotherapist), Malang Ali (masseur), Dr Sohail Saleem (team doctor), Lt Col (retd) Usman Riffat (security manager) and Raza Kitchlew (media manager).