Mohammad Amir picked for England tour
Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir has been picked for the Test series in England, his first appearance in a Test squad since his return to international cricket after a five-year suspension for spot-fixing in September last year. He had made a comeback to Pakistan's limited-overs' squads earlier this year.
With the team set to depart on June 18, the PCB is hopeful that Amir will be granted a visa by next week. His application was also supported by the ECB. There were concerns over Amir being granted a UK visa, after the bowler - along with Mohammad Asif and Salman Butt - was sentenced in a London court for his role in the 2010 spot-fixing scandal in the controversial Lord's Test against England, and was given a six-month jail sentence, half of which he served at the Portland Young Offenders Institution in Dorset.
Legspinner Yasir Shah was picked for his first international series after the end of his doping ban in March. The bowler had missed Pakistan's tour to New Zealand, the Asia Cup T20 and the World T20 after he was given a three-month suspension by the ICC.
Yasir was provisionally suspended under the ICC's Anti-Doping Code in December after he tested positive for a banned substance, chlortalidone, and a three-month suspension was given after he pleaded guilty to breaching the code. The penalty, which was backdated to December, ended on March 27. The legspinner, however, did suffer an injury scare last month, when he missed the fitness camp in Abbottabad after aggravating an old knee injury. Zulfiqar Babar was the other spinner named in the squad.
Mohammad Hafeez was picked despite suffering a knee injury which had ruled him out of the conditioning camp in Abbottabad. Hafeez, too, had aggravated an old injury, which he suffered during the World T20 in March. With more than a month to go for the first Test, the selectors were hopeful Hafeez would be fit for the series.
After a long time, the PCB named a back-up wicketkeeper - Mohammad Rizwan - who is yet to make his Test debut. He has played 15 ODIs and nine T20Is since his international debut against Bangladesh last year. Chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said Rizwan was picked to take some workload off Sarfraz Ahmed since it was a long tour.
"Rizwan has been playing in T20s and he has been doing well in ODIs," Inzamam said. "We are sending two keepers because there are four Tests and it will be a good opportunity for Rizwan too."
Inzamam named a back-up opening batsman in 20-year-old Sami Aslam, who made his Test debut against Bangladesh in April last year. Aslam, a former Pakistan Under-19 captain, played both Tests of the series, scoring 47 runs. Ahmed Shehzad, who was left out of the probables list for the England tour on disciplinary grounds, was not picked.
Four other fast bowlers, apart from Amir, were named in the squad of 17 - Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali, Sohail Khan and Imran Khan. Sohail, who last played a Test in September 2011, was part of Pakistan's squad for the 2015 World Cup, where he played seven matches and was the second-highest wicket-taker for the side with 12 wickets. His tally included a five-for in his comeback ODI, against India at the Adelaide Oval. Inzamam said the selectors were keeping an eye on Junaid Khan's progress too, but he needed more time to recover before being picked for an international tour.
"Junaid had a knee injury and struggled a bit after that," Inzamam said. "It will take him some time now to get back into rhythm and then we will consider him again. We have picked Sohail instead because his performance has been very good. I saw him bowl during the camp and he is in really good rhythm. Inshallah he will do well on the England tour."
The last time Pakistan toured England for a Test series was in 2010 and their last Test series outside the subcontinent against one of the top eight sides was to South Africa in early 2013. Pakistan lost all three Tests on that tour and Inzamam admitted touring outside Asia was something that bothered him.
"My only concern is that we have hardly played outside [the subcontinent] in the last six-seven years," Inzamam said. "Otherwise the Pakistani team is known to play aggressive cricket across the world. I think that is the strength of this team - aggression."
Pakistan will undergo a conditioning camp in Hampshire and will play two tour matches - against Somerset and Sussex - before the first Test at Lord's, which starts from July 14. They will play another tour match, against Worcestershire, between the second and third Tests at Old Trafford and Edgbaston, respectively. The fourth Test will be played at The Oval from August 11.
Squad: Mohammad Hafeez, Shan Masood, Sami Aslam, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Younis Khan, Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq, Iftikhar Ahmed, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Zulfiqar Babar, Yasir Shah, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Rahat Ali, Imran Khan, Sohail Khan