Khalid Latif replaces Hafeez in ODI squad
Pakistan's continuing troubles with their opening combination have forced the selectors to call up Khalid Latif and release Mohammad Hafeez from the 15-man squad to face South Africa in the third ODI in Faisalabad on Tuesday.
Pakistan have tried two opening combinations in two games so far and Imran Nazir, Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal have provided starts of 18 and 1. Hafeez was dropped for the second ODI and the highest score by an opener remains Nazir's 16 in the first ODI.
The 21-year old Latif has been on the fringes of selection to the senior squad for some time now. He first came to national attention when he led the Pakistan U-19 team to victory in the 2004 World Cup in Bangladesh.
He was unlucky to miss out on selection for the ICC World Twenty20 despite impressing during the various training camps held before the tournament. But solid performances in the recent home series against Australia A have finally paid off.
Latif ended the three-match ODI series in September as the leading scorer on either side. His tally of 228 runs included one fifty and a spectacular unbeaten 142 in Lahore as Pakistan successfully chased 332 against an attack that included Jason Gillespie, James Hopes and Dan Cullen.
"We are struggling with an opening pair at the moment," Salahuddin Ahmed, the chief selector, told Cricinfo. "We are already playing Kamran as an opener to make place for an extra bowler.
"Latif is a very good, upcoming youngster and was in brilliant form against Australia A recently. He fully deserves his place in the squad. Hafeez has been released and he will go back to regain his form in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy."
It is understood that Latif will not play in Faisalabad but may get an opportunity later in the series. Still, Pakistan are likely to go in with their third different opening pair in as many matches; Nazir's continuing run of poor scores means Yasir Hameed will most likely open the innings with Akmal.
And in light of an impressive bowling performance in the second ODI, Pakistan will not risk Mohammad Asif for the third game. Asif sat out the first two matches with an elbow injury that flared up during the second Test in Lahore.
Osman Samiuddin is the Pakistan editor of Cricinfo