Cricket: Young Haider Ali gets maiden call-up for Pakistan’s tour of England

Young Haider Ali was rewarded for his stupendous recent form with a maiden international call-up for Pakistan’s ‘bio-secure’ tour of England in August-September.

Pacer Sohail Khan made a return to the national side after four years as Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) announced a 29-player squad for three Tests and as many T20Is.

Haider had an outstanding 2019-20 season, following which he earned an emerging contract for the 2020-21 season.

He was Pakistan U19’s second most successful batsman with 317 runs against South Africa U19 in June, fifth leading run-getter in the ACC Emerging Teams Cup in Bangladesh.

Meanwhile Sohail, whose last played for Pakistan in the Boxing Day Test aginst Australia in 2016, is coming off a good domestic season. In the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2019-20, he took 22 wickets in nine matches, while he grabbed seven wickets in the PSL.

The announcement a day after premier pacer Mohammad Amir and middle-order batsman Haris Sohail pulled out of the tour.

“Amir withdrew so that he can be at the birth of his second child in August while Haris took the option of pulling out of the tour due to the Covid-19 pandemic,” the PCB media release said.

Four reserve players have also been named as a cover in case anyone fails the pre-tour COVID-19 testing, which will be carried out on June 20 and 25.

An extended squad, including white-ball specialists, is being sent to England as the players, in accordance with series SOPs in the wake of COVID-19, will remain in England from start to finish.

“The selectors have picked a squad which gives us the best chance of success in England. But 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 backend of the ICC World Test Championship fixtures,” chief selector and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said.

“The series against England will be challenging as our players have not played any competitive cricket since March, while the home team will come following a series against the West Indies.

“This means we will have to hit the ground running as soon as we land in England and make the best use of the training sessions and match practice before we enter the first Test,” he added.

Besides Haider, Kashif Bhatti is the other uncapped player in the side. Kashif was in the Test squad against Australia and Sri Lanka but did not play.

Squad:  Abid Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali (captain), Babar Azam (Test vice-captain and T20I captain), Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Haider Ali, Iftikhar Ahmad, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Imran Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sohail Khan, Usman Shinwari, Wahab Riaz, Imad Wasim, Kashif Bhatti, Shadab Khan and Yasir Shah.

Reserves:  Bilal Asif, Imran Butt, Musa Khan and Mohammad Nawaz.