Bilal to join Pakistan squad, Azhar to return home
Offspinner Bilal Asif will join the Pakistan Test squad in the UAE after undergoing a test of his bowling action in Chennai on Monday. Asif was reported for a suspect action following the third ODI against Zimbabwe in Harare earlier this month, but has been selected to provide spin cover for Pakistan, after legspinner Yasir Shah missed the first Test against England because of a back spasm.
With Yasir unavailable, Pakistan were forced to field a three-man pace attack in Abu Dhabi. Zulfiqar Babar was the only specialist spinner and Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq had expressed his disappointment at the absence of adequate spin cover in the squad. Yasir is expected to be fit for the second Test in Dubai, but Asif's presence will give Pakistan an additional all-round spin option. Asif is allowed to bowl until the result of his test is known, which is likely to take another couple of weeks, making him available for the second Test starting on October 22.
Geoff Allardice, the ICC's general manager - cricket, said there was an effort being made to reduce the time between a bowler being reported and the results of the test on his action being released. "We are trying to get the turnaround times on reports a lot faster. We have shortened the time that the player has to be tested by and that the report has to be presented," Allardice said. "Yes, it may mean they play a match in between - certainly at an ICC event we can be quick as the players are all in the same place - but it's a trade-off of having the scientific validity verses the turnaround time. At this stage, in-match testing I don't think it will happen in a hurry - our testing centres will deal with it in the short to medium term."
Meanwhile, Pakistan batsman Azhar Ali will miss the second Test after leaving the squad to return home because of the death of his mother-in-law. Azhar had missed the first Test after sustaining a toe injury on the Zimbabwe tour but Pakistan hope to have him back for the third match, in Sharjah.