Mohammad Amir set to return for final
Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir has been ruled fit for selection for the Champions Trophy final against India, coach Mickey Arthur confirmed on Saturday. A back spasm had ruled Amir out of the semi-final against England on June 14, after he failed a fitness test shortly before the toss.
Azhar Mahmood, Pakistan's bowling coach, had said on Friday that Amir was available for selection, after the fast bowler competed a training session. "Amir bowled today. Amir is fit," Mahmood had said.
Amir's availability leaves Pakistan with a conundrum, albeit a happy one. Despite bowling well, he was wicketless in the first two league matches, against India and South Africa. Amir had success against Sri Lanka, taking 2 for 53 and scoring a valuable 28 not out in an eighth-wicket partnership that sealed a semi-final place for Pakistan.
"When you go to a final, you want your experienced player, you want him to be fully fit and participating on that particular day," Mahmood said. "But (we have told him) if he has any doubt he should let us know. At the moment he bowled today. He is fine. Yeah, definitely you would go with Amir."
In the semi-final, Amir was replaced by Rumman Raees, another left-arm fast bowler who made his ODI debut in the match; he shared the new ball with Junaid Khan and took 2 for 44 in Pakistan's eight-wicket victory.
Along with Hasan Ali, who has emerged as Pakistan's bowler of the tournament, Raees and Junaid surprised England, dismissing one of the best batting units over the last two years for 211. Hasan, who suffered a calf niggle in the semi-final, did not train with the team on Friday but Mahmood had said the bowler was resting as a precaution.
"We have the bench strength," Mahmood said. "Last match, when Amir was not there, people were worried about our main strike bowler not playing. But the way Rumman Raees came in and bowled, it showed we have the bench strength. We have guys who have such skill and such an ability that they can perform on any stage. It is just a matter of self belief and confidence. I think anyone can replace anyone."
Amir has been a near-constant presence in the Pakistan XI since his return to international cricket at the start of 2016, playing 47 out of the side's 57 international matches, across formats, in this period.
June 17, 2017: The story was updated after Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur confirmed Mohammad Amir's availability
Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo