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Musa, Naseem included in Pakistan squad for Australia Tests

Misbahul Haq announced squads for, both, T20I and Test series ahead of tour Down Under

PHOTO COURTESY: PCB

Pakistan on Monday decided to unleash their next generation of pace sensations Musa Khan and Naseem Shah, along with teenage Shaheen Shah Afridi, in Australia by naming the trio in the 16-man squad for next month’s World Test Championship fixtures.

The three quicks will join 14-Test veteran Mohammad Abbas and fast-bowler Imran Khan Senior, who has been recalled after playing his ninth and final Test in Sydney in January 2017, as the Pakistan cricket selectors have taken an attacking and aggressive approach for the upcoming Tests while also looking at the future.

The 19-year-old Musa from Islamabad has played seven first-class matches in which he has taken 17 wickets, while Lahore’s 16-year-old Naseem has also claimed 17 wickets in five first-class matches.

In the four-day first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2019-20, Musa has picked up five wickets in four matches and Naseem has bagged nine wickets in three matches.

Both fast-bowlers, regular features of the Pakistan junior sides, are regarded as the quickest on the domestic circuit, regularly touching 145kph on the speed gun, with tremendous potential and bright futures.

Musa has also been named for the three T20Is, which will be played in the first week of November.

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In the 20-over format, Musa will team up with Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Irfan, the 2.16m tall left-armer who has been included to further bolster the fast bowling attack while keeping an eye on next year’s ICC T20 World Cup Australia 2020.

In both the formats, Misbahul Haq’s selection committee has also rewarded the high-performing players.

In the T20I side, they have included Bannu’s 24-year-old middle-order batsman Khushdil Shah and 26-year-old wrist spinner Usman Qadir of Lahore, who has played seven Big Bash League matches for Perth Scorchers.

In the ongoing National T20 Cup, Khushdil has scored 93 runs for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa at an impressive strike-rate of over 160. Khushdil was the second highest run-getter in the Pakistan Cup 2019, scoring 316 runs at 105.33 with the help of two centuries while Usman has taken four wickets at an economy-rate of under seven.

In the Test side, the selectors, apart from Musa and Naseem, have also named uncapped opener Abid Ali, who has scored 7,000 first-class runs in 104 matches, including 300 runs in the two Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches to date, and left-arm spinner Kashif Bhatti. The 33-year-old Kashif has taken 10 wickets in the current season, while in an 83-match first-class career, spanning over 12 years, he has taken 327 wickets.

Like Imran Khan Senior, middle-order batsman Iftikhar Ahmed has been recalled to the Test side after his only Test against England at The Oval in 2016.

Explaining his selections, chief selector and head coach Misbah said: “We know that Australia will present different and exciting challenges for us. There is a need to play a different type of cricket, the balance of the squads is reflective of us having options to play aggressive, attacking cricket.”

“Yes it’s a brave and bold decision to select the likes of Musa and Naseem, but we know that their fresh and attacking approach will give us something different. The Australian wickets will give them the opportunity to express themselves, gain valuable experience and it will help us to take 20 wickets to win the Tests. I am pretty sure these two lads will surprise a lot of people with their pace, controlled swing and ability to bowl long spells at a consistent speed,” he added.  

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The Pakistan head coach-cum-chief selector also explained the decision to pick lanky pacer Mohammad Irfan for the T20I series.

“For the T20Is, Mohammad Irfan has been rewarded for the form he has shown recently. Based on horses for courses and his form, the Australian conditions will present Irfan with the opportunity to excel. This selection has also been made while looking at next year’s ICC T20 World Cup, which will be played in Australia. If we can successfully manage his workload, then he can be a valuable asset for us in next global event,” he said.

The former Pakistan captain also shed light on the selection of middle-order batsman Khushdil Shah and leg-spinner Usman Qadir.

“Similarly, Khushdil Shah has been added as he is in-form and has displayed his power-hitting abilities, while Usman Qadir brings to the table his experience of playing in Australia. Usman also provides cover for Shadab Khan, who is on track for reclaiming his match form,” he said.

Hasan Ali was not considered for the tour as he is still recovering from his back injury, while Shaheen Shah Afridi has been picked only for Tests to ensure his safe return to international cricket after picking dengue virus in August.

Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik were not considered as part of the selectors’ forward-looking strategy.

The T20I side will depart for Sydney on 26 October, while the Test players will leave for Perth after featuring in the fifth round of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, which will be played from 28-31 October.

T20I squad

Babar Azam (c), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imamul Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir and Wahab Riaz.

Tests

Azhar Ali (c), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imamul Haq, Imran Khan Snr, Iftikhar Ahmed, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood and Yasir Shah.