England v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Old Trafford July 24, 2006

Arafat to the rescue?



Yasir Arafat has tormented England in the past but will he get another chance this time around? © Getty Images

If you have any left after the injuries and absences that have ravaged England and Pakistan, spare a thought also for Sussex. Fighting for room at the top of the County Championship, they are resigned to be without the cheery - and startlingly effective - presence of Rana Naved-ul-Hasan for the season.

They could also lose out on the services of their talisman Mushtaq Ahmed, should Pakistan choose to test whether he can beguile England's international batsmen as much as he does their county counterparts. And now, having smartly covered the potential absence of both by recruiting Yasir Arafat, Pakistan's allrounder forever on the fringes of national selection, they might conceivably lose his services as well at some point this season.

Arafat is an allrounder of typically Pakistani ethos; ideal for ODI cricket but capable of spectacular feats in Test matches. And though useful as a lower-order plunderer, his bowling remains his stronger suit. His type of straight, full, skiddy bowling accounted for Andrew Flintoff's wicket at an ODI in Pakistan last year, nine wickets against England in a warm-up game during the series and five wickets in six balls in a domestic game in December 2004 (four of the five were either leg-before or bowled), a feat performed by only three other bowlers. His experience of English conditions has also borne fruit; in three county matches for Sussex this season, he has already taken 17 wickets (two five-wicket hauls) and scored two fifties. The performances haven't gone unnoticed.

"We have considered him and his name has come up in discussions but no decision has been taken yet," Bob Woolmer told Cricinfo. "Because of the nature of our injuries many players will be talked about, discussed. Ultimately we have to do as well as we can with what we have."

With concerns over Abdul Razzaq's fitness heightened after the drawn first Test at Lord's, Arafat's chances of being called up would have increased. But Zaheer Abbas, Pakistan's manager, confirmed that Razzaq is likely to play at Old Trafford. Abbas told The News that Razzaq had started running at the weekend and is expected to take part in nets at Old Trafford. These nets will decide whether or not Razzaq has overcome the back strains that have afflicted him since the final day of the first Test.

"We will have our first nets at Old Trafford tomorrow and Razzaq is supposed to take part. It would be there we will know whether he has fully recovered from a back problem," Zaheer said. "Razzaq is keen to play and I am sure that he would work hard to get fully fit for the next match."

Apart from the return of Younis Khan it is unlikely too many changes will be made after just one Test. If there are any more injuries - and that is hardly unlikely over this summer - who knows. Wasim Bari, chief selector, confirmed to Cricinfo that no requests had been made by the team management for any back-up or replacements. "We have told them just to inform us if they feel they require a certain player but at the moment nothing has been said."

Though Arafat might not mind it too much, Pakistan will keep their fingers crossed that Bari receives no SOS calls between now and Thursday when the second Test begins. Ditto Sussex.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

Comments