It took just 38.5 overs across three innings for Hasan Ali to break down once again after five months of extensive rehabilitation of his back. His attempt to restart his career was marred by yet another blow when he sustained a strain in his groin while playing for Central Punjab against Northern Punjab in the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. As a result, Ali has been ruled out of the third round of the tournament.
Ali is working with a physiotherapist in Karachi and has been advised at least a week's rest before any further decision is made on his fitness. He is being continuously monitored and underwent an MRI scan to get more clarity about the severity of the injury. He has also reduced any further toil on his body and is doing only light training for now.
Ali made himself available for competitive cricket after spending several months at the High Performance Centre in Lahore. He started the first-class season in the first round against Sindh at the National Stadium in Karachi, where he bowled a combined 32.3 overs while conceding 106 runs for three wickets. But during the second-round game against Northern Punjab, he lasted only 6.2 overs on the first day, and walked back in pain to not return again as his side lost the match by nine wickets.
Ali's career took a big blow last year after he suffered a back injury during the opening round of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy in Lahore, following which he underwent a seven-week rehabilitation at the National Cricket Academy. He was declared fit for the final round of the tournament, only to suffer a fresh injury - a rib fracture in November 2019 - that ruled him out for a further six weeks.
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Ali has also continued to miss international cricket - he last represented Pakistan against India in the 2019 World Cup - but was declared fit to play in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) earlier this year. He had an unimpressive outing with eight wickets in nine games with an economy rate of 8.59 for the Peshawar Zalmi before the tournament was put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Soon after the PSL stint, Ali had recurring back pain, and scans confirmed the problem in the back had flared up again, with symptoms similar to that of a lumbar herniated disk. Ali consulted an Australian doctor and avoided surgery on his back while continuing to work and train with a physiotherapist. He also lost his central contract last month, but will have his medical expenses covered by the PCB until recovering fully. Ali will also get additional financial assistance from the board's welfare fund, a safety net reserved only for retired players in dire need.
Despite the injury, Ali is likely to stay in Karachi and will be joining the Zalmi squad for the PSL playoffs starting November 14.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent