Unfamiliar faces but a familiar name in Pakistan squad

April 16, 2018

Pakistan's squad for their tour of Ireland and England next month contains a number of new faces who have yet to play Test cricket, but one very familiar name. 

Imam-ul-Haq, nephew of the legendary Inzamam - who is now the chief selector - is one of four uncapped batsmen picked for the tour alongside Fakhar Zaman, Saad Ali and Usman Salahuddin. 

The team will play in Ireland's first ever Test match next month, followed by two Tests against England at Lord's and Headingley. 

Imam-ul-Haq, who will be a distinctive figure as he plays in spectacles, made a century on his one-day international debut against Sri Lanka last year. Fakhar Zaman has also enjoyed success in limited overs cricket, making 106 in the ICC Champions Trophy final against India at Lord's last year. 

Saad Ali has been selected after being the top run scorer in the recent Pakistani domestic season. 

The side does have some batting experience in the shape of players like Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq, but there are some big shoes to fill compared with Pakistan's last tour, when the middle order batting revolved around veterans Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. Another experienced batsman, Shan Masood, is out with a knee injury.

Pakistan's bowling is also missing some big names, chiefly leg-spinner Yasir Shah, who has a serious hip injury, and fast bowler Wahab Riaz, who has been left out over concerns about his attitude expressed by coach Mickey Arthur. Much will depend on seamer Mohammad Amir.

Describing the absence of Yasir from the squad as a "big loss", 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, all the games we’ve won he played a big part in."

Overall, there are five debutants and three others with just five Test caps between them. This may not matter too much against an Ireland side that will feature at least ten test debutants - assuming Boyd Rankin, who has one cap for England, features at Malahide - but their inexperience against the Dukes ball in early summer could give England a golden chance to get back on the winning trail.

Fans booking corporate hospitality for the England versus India Test at Edgbaston will certainly be hoping the home side can enjoy the boost of a couple of victories before the five-match series against the number one-ranked Test side. 

While the Pakistan squad is now known, various players have the opportunity to force their way into the England reckoning with some good county performances. 
The opening round of matches has been dominated by the bowlers, with low scores including Kent being bowled out for 64 and Northamptonshire for 71. 

At Old Trafford, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire's batsmen were relieved not to have to face Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson on a pitch offering uneven bounce and sideways movement, but Jake Ball did his hopes of a Test recall no harm by taking five lancashire wickets for 43 runs.

Lancashire were bowled out for 158, with openers Haseeb Hameed and Keaton Jennings both falling cheaply to dent their hopes of getting back in the Test side. 

Image: Francois Nel/Getty Images from Keith Prowse subscription

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