Yousuf and Yasir recalled by Pakistan
Pakistan have made four changes - two of them forced - to the team that was beaten by England at Edgbaston. Two middle-order batsmen, Shoaib Malik and Umar Amin, have been dropped to make way for Mohammad Yousuf and Yasir Hameed, while the injured pair of Zulqarnain Haider and Umar Gul have been replaced by the squad's senior wicketkeeper, Kamran Akmal, and debutant left-arm seamer, Wahab Riaz, respectively. It is also likely that Pakistan will open with Hameed and Imran Farhat, with captain and regular opener Salman Butt dropping down to No. 3.
While Butt had confirmed during his afternoon press conference that Yousuf and Kamran were in line for recalls, he was cagey about revealing any further news. "We could make six changes because we have six sitting outside, but we will make only the ones required," he told reporters.
Later in the evening, however, during the selection meeting, it was decided that the right-hand batsman, Hameed, would come into the side as an opener. One of the two left-handers, Butt or Imran Farhat, will shift down to No. 3. Butt was likelier to do so given that he is both the captain and struggling for form at the top of the order, with just 16 runs coming from four innings in the first two Tests.
"Hameed is an experienced batsman. We just wanted to test the two youngsters [Azhar Ali and Umar Amin] because they have scored well in domestic cricket over the last two years," a senior official told Cricinfo.
Hameed, primarily an opener, returns to the Test arena after a long gap of three years. His last outing was against India in Bangalore at the end of a series in which he logged 158 runs at 26.33 without registering a half-century. But he has an aggressive streak which, if he clicks, can release the pressure of the new ball. At New Road over the weekend he opened with Azhar Ali in the rain-abandoned match against Worcestershire and played a few good strokes in his 27, but generally seemed a little distracted before chasing a wide delivery and edging it to the slips.
Though it might seem to be a dicey move to include Hameed, the team management had been left with little alternative after a summer of constant batting failures. The former captain Malik was especially disappointing as he failed to lead by example and a sum of 89 runs in the three Tests in the summer did not give any confidence to the tour selectors to retain him. Amin, who made his debut at Lord's against Australia in July, showed enthusiasm but was initially defeated by a series of unplayable deliveries, but later he failed to apply himself.
On the bowling front Riaz was preferred over the right-armer Tanvir Ahmed because of the prevailing overcast conditions. Riaz, lanky and tall, has enough pace to make the ball bounce and move, something he showed in the practice match against Leicestershire last month. "Both are good bowlers - one is very good new-ball bowler and the other is very good with the old ball," Butt said earlier in the day.
Pakistan 1 Yasir Hameed, 2 Imran Farhat, 3 Salman Butt (capt), 4 Azhar Ali, 5 Mohammad Yousuf, 6 Umar Akmal, 7 Kamran Akmal (wk), 8 Mohammad Amir, 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Mohammad Asif
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo