Pakistan turn to teens to begin new era in Australia

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PAKISTAN have turned to the next generation for their Australian tour, naming a trio of teenage tearaways to spearhead their T20 and Test campaigns down under this summer.

New head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq, the former captain, swung the axe to end the international careers of Mohammed Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, hailing a “brave and bold” future while former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed had earlier been announced as a casualty.

Sixteen-year-old Naseem Shah and 19-year-old Musa Khan have been included in Pakistan’s 16-man Test squad, along with 19-year-old Shaheen Shan Afridi who is a comparative veteran with three Tests and a handful of limited-overs matches already to his name.

Musa, from Islamabad, has 17 wickets in seven first-class matches and topped 145kph on his debut in the Pakistan Super League T20 competition earlier this year.

The 16-year-old Naseem also has 17 wickets in five first-class matches and has collected nine in three matches in this season of Pakistan’s first-class competition, the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

But Pakistan will not be relying entirely on a baby-faced pace attack against the world’s best Test batsman in Steve Smith and the rest of the Australians. Mohammad Abbas, who wreaked havoc on the Australians during their series in the UAE last October, has also been selected.

And there has been a recall for Imran Khan Senior who played the last of his nine Tests in Sydney in January 2017.

The 32-year-old Imran was selected to provide backup to Abbas while Misbah touted his new-ball ability, but reserved his most glowing praise for the new kids on the block.

“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,” Misbah said.

“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.

“Abbas’s calibre and prowess is very well documented, while Shaheen Shah Afridi has already shown the world that he is a star in the making.”

Sarfaraz, sacked in the wake of a 3-0 T20 loss to Sri Lanka at home, had his place in both squads taken by 27-year-old Mohammad Rizwan, whose only Test was in New Zealand in 2016.

While there has been upheaval in the pace department with Hasan Ali ruled out of the tour with a back injury and the retirements from Test cricket of Mohammad Amir – who will still visit Australia with Pakistan’s T20 squad – and Wahab Riaz, Misbah also made moves with his spin bowlers, adding Kashif Bhatti to support Yasir Shah.

“Yasir has matured and gained experience since his last tour to Australia, and he remains our most successful bowler in the Test format. We know he can deliver and will continue to back him to deliver the goods,” Misbah said.

“Our Test batting is experienced, talented and pretty settled, so, we have not tweaked it much, except including prolific Abid Ali in place of Fakhar Zaman and adding Iftikhar Ahmed, who can also bowl off-spin.

“We have a strong batting line-up that we expect to perform in the two Tests.”

Opening batsman Abid Ali has scored exactly 7,000 first-class runs in 104 matches at an average of 39.54, with 18 centuries and 31 fifties. The 32-year-old from Lahore has made 300 runs in his two Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches this season, including a career-best 249 not out in September.

Misbah has called up former Perth Scorchers leg-spinner Usman Qadir, the son of famous leg-spinner Abdul Qadir and who had previously said it was his “dream” to represent Australia rather than the country of his birth.

But under Misbah’s new reign the younger Qadir has been welcomed back into the fold, with his experience of Australian conditions in a handful of BBL and domestic one-day matches.

Misbah has indicated towering pace bowler Mohammad Irfan will be a key weapon for the T20 side in Australia, with one eye on next year’s World Cup.

“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,” Misbah said.

“If we can successfully manage his workload, then he can be a valuable asset for us in the next global event.

“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.

“Asif Ali has been retained due to his sparkling form in the National T20 Cup, while we have kept faith in Iftikhar Ahmed who has all the ability and talent in the middle-order.”

Pakistan T20 squad: Babar Azam (c), Asif Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Shadab Khan, Usman Qadir.

Pakistan Test squad: Azhar Ali (c), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan Snr, Iftikhar Ahmed, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Musa Khan, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah.

Pakistan’s Tour of Australia
Gillette T20 Internationals
Warm-up match: v Cricket Australia XI, October 31, Bankstown

First T20: November 3, SCG, 2.30pm (Fox & Kayo)

Second T20: November 5, Manuka Oval, 7.10pm (Fox & Kayo)

Third T20: November 8, Perth Stadium, 4.30pm (Fox & Kayo)

Domain Test Series
Warm-up match: v Cricket Australia XI, November 11-13, Perth Stadium (d/n)

Warm-up match: v Cricket Australia XI, November 15-16, WACA Ground

First Test: November 21-25, Gabba

Second Test: November 29 – December 3, Adelaide (d/n)