Haider Ali named in 29-man squad for England tour, Sohail Khan returns after four years
Haider Ali has been called up to the national side for the upcoming England tour after earning an emerging contract for the 2020-21 season while fast bowler Sohail Khan has returned to national colours following his last Test appearance almost four years ago.
Pakistan have announced an extended 29-player squad for the tour comprising of three Tests and three T20Is scheduled to take place in August-September.
The matches are likely to be conducted behind closed doors at "bio-secure" venues with the players staying in England in accordance with the safety protocols in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.
The selectors have additionally named four reserves in Bilal Asif, Imran Butt, Musa Khan and Mohammad Nawaz to cover for any player that fails the coronavirus test before travelling.
Haider's promotion to the highest level has been caused by a phenomenal run spree over the past year. He was one of the standout players amongst the younger lot in the domestic Quaid-e-Azam Trophy where he amassed 645 runs at an average of just under 50.
The talented batter followed it up with a couple of outstanding performances at the 2020 U-19 World Cup, allowing him to find a spot in the Peshawar Zalmi lineup for this year's edition of the Pakistan Super League.
Haider's explosive strokeplay was the hallmark of his stint with Zalmi as he often took the aerial route and scored at a steep strike rate of over 158 throughout the unfinished competition.
The teenager's induction in the set-up is in line with the PCB's vision of keeping "one eye on the future". The other uncapped player in the enlarged contingent is left-arm spinner Kashif Bhatti, who was previously a member of Pakistan's Test squad for the Australia tour.
Meanwhile, Sohail has been recalled in light of his bowling heroics during the 2016 England tour, though his recent numbers in the domestic arena are not too impressive. He has not played a red-ball game for Pakistan since the Boxing Day Test against Australia in 2016.
“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," said head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq.
Ahsan Ali, who made his T20I debut against Bangladesh in January, is missing from the list of names revealed by the PCB. Mohammad Amir and Haris Sohail were also not considered for selection after they made themselves unavailable due to personal reasons.
“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," Misbah stated.
The former skipper added that the focus was on excelling in the World Test Championship fixtures while he commented on the importance of learning from the fresh faces in the coaching staff – Younis Khan and Mushtaq Ahmed.
"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."
"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," Misbah concluded.
The touring party, featuring a mix of red-ball and white-ball specialists, will have to follow stringent SOPs throughout the duration of the series and will have to remain in isolation without any interaction outside the group of players and support personnel.
The breakdown of the squad is as follows:
Openers – Abid Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood
Middle-order batsmen – Azhar Ali (Test captain), Babar Azam (T20I captain), Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Haider Ali, Iftikhar Ahmad, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik
Wicketkeepers – Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed
Fast bowlers – Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Imran Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sohail Khan, Usman Shinwari, Wahab Riaz
Spinners – Imad Wasim, Kashif Bhatti, Shadab Khan, Yasir Shah