Batsman Haider Ali, one of Pakistan's best performers at the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year, has earned a maiden call-up to the national team, and Sohail Khan, the 36-year-old quick, has been recalled after last playing internationally in 2017, as Pakistan named a 29-member squad for the Tests as well as T20Is in England. Sarfaraz Ahmed, the former all-format captain who last played for Pakistan in October last year, has returned to the line-up, but as back-up wicketkeeper to Mohammad Rizwan. The squad is a combination of red- and white-ball players, and the selectors will streamline the squads after reaching England.
The selectors have retained most of the men who had been named for the Bangladesh Tests earlier this year, with only Haris Sohail missing, after the batsman withdrew citing family concerns. For the T20Is, Ahsan Ali, Amad Butt and Usman Qadir - who were part of the previous squad that played in January against Bangladesh - have been dropped.
Apart from them, Mohammad Amir, who retired from Test cricket last year and was thus only eligible for selection for the T20Is, had pulled out so that he could be present for the birth of his second child in August.
Haider Ali, the only brand-new face in the line-up, got the leg-up after an impressive year, in which he played an impactful role for Peshawar Zalmi in the PSL, scoring 239 runs at a strike rate of close to 160. He shot into prominence with 645 first-class runs at just under 50 in his debut Quaid-e-Azam Trophy season last year, and scored 218 runs in the ACC Emerging Teams Cup in Bangladesh, before doing well at the Under-19 World Cup.
Sohail, meanwhile, returned to the frame after a long gap, while Wahab Raiz returned after losing his central contract earlier this year; Riaz, like Amir, had retired from Test cricket late last year to extend his white-ball career.
Ahmed was relieved from the captaincy in October last year after a sustained drop in both personal form and the team's fortunes across formats. He also lost his place to Rizwan, and was demoted from Category A to Category B in the PCB central contracts.
"Our second-best option is still Sarfaraz and this is why we have kept him as back-up for this lengthy tour, Misbah-ul-Haq, the chief selector as well as head coach, said. "He was dropped because of poor form but the cricket he has played afterwards, the pressure has been eased now. He had an added pressure on him as captain but Sarfaraz has a good record in England as keeper. With a lengthy tour and the 29-man squad, we needed two keepers, with Rizwan already playing.
"We always judge them in terms of runs, which isn't actually the way to go. In England, keeping isn't easy at all and when you pick a player, we look for many aspects and at this very important tour you can't really take a chance on a younger player. It's relatively easy to try out younger options at home but on overseas tours, you must have a solid option on the bench."
The selectors have also named four reserves - Bilal Asif, Imran Butt, Musa Khan and Mohammad Nawaz - over and above the 29, in case anyone fails a Covid-19 test before travelling.
"The selectors have picked a squad which gives us the best chance of success in England," Misbah said. "It was a challenging process as the players have not played for an extended period, but nevertheless, with the month that we will have in England and the intense training we will undergo, we are confident we will get the players up to the mark to be ready for the three Tests.
"The main focus of the selectors has been red-ball cricket, which we will play for nearly two months with the T20Is to be played at the back-end of the ICC World Test Championship fixtures."
Pakistan's tour will feature three Tests in August followed by a series of three T20Is, with the matches taking place behind closed doors as part of unprecedented measures to stay safe from Covid-19. The ECB has come up with extensive plans to keep Pakistan's players in a bio-secure environment - likely to be in Birmingham initially - from the moment they land in the country.
The Pakistan players and support staffers are expected to fly out later this month, at least five weeks before the series formally starts. Under current UK government rules, those arriving from outside the country will have to mandatorily undergo a 14-day quarantine period. The touring party will form a "bubble", where they will not interact with anyone outside of the group, and regular tests for Covid-19 will be conducted on the tour.
Pakistan will be the second side to tour England since the Covid-19 pandemic, with West Indies set to play three Tests in England starting July 8. Three West Indies players - Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul and Darren Bravo - withdrew from that tour, citing health-related concerns.