Pakistan bolster pace attack after Hasan Ali dropped from Asia Cup squad

Young fast bowler Naseem Shah added to UAE-bound team that includes a recuperating Shaheen Afridi

Naseem Shah, right, has only played Tests so far and has been added to Pakistan's limited overs side with Shaheen Afridi. AFP
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Pakistan have added extra ammunition to their fast bowling attack after dropping out-of-form seamer Hasan Ali from their squad for the Asia Cup, which will be held in the UAE later this month.

All-rounder Ali has seen his fortunes decline in white-ball cricket after the highs of the 2017 Champions Trophy in England, where he was player of the tournament. Since 2019, he has picked up 16 wickets in 18 ODIs and 27 scalps in the last 21 T20s. His lowest point came in the T20 World Cup in the UAE last year where he dropped Australia's Matthew Wade during a tense chase in the semi-final. The batsman then hit three successive sixes to seal a spot in the final, which the Aussies won.

Ali has since fallen down the pecking order, with his confidence and sharpness with the ball both affected.

“Hasan has been given a break from international cricket and he has been replaced by Naseem Shah,” Pakistan’s chief selector Mohammad Wasim said on Wednesday. "Naseem is express fast and can give further impetus to the fast bowling department.

“Naseem has not played any international white-ball cricket, but he has demonstrated with the red-ball that he is an attacking option with good pace and controlled swing."

"It is important to take wickets in white-ball cricket. He has that ability," Waseem said of Shah. "He can swing the ball, he has got pace, and if we talk about his temperament, we have seen the evidence in Tests. He is a good replacement for Hasan Ali."

Shah has taken 33 wickets in 13 Test matches, but is yet to make his international debut in the shorter formats.

His addition to the squad is significant as there is still no clarity over the fitness levels of pace spearhead Shaheen Afridi. The left-arm quick suffered a bruised knee and had to miss the second Test against Sri Lanka last month.

The PCB stated that "his [Afridi] rehabilitation programme will be overseen by the team trainer and physiotherapist, who will also decide on his return to international cricket".

Pakistan have gone in with a pace-heavy attack, even though the matches will be played in more spin friendly conditions in the UAE. That's because the tournament this year has been changed to a 20-over format to allow participating teams to prepare for the T20 World Cup later this year.

Haris Rauf and Shahnawaz Dahani have impressed with their speeds and will be looking to cement their positions, now that seam bowling spots have opened up in the side.

Pakistan announced two squads on Wednesday - for the Asia Cup T20 tournament and the three-match ODI series against the Netherlands.

The matches in Rotterdam start from August 16 to 21 before the Asia Cup begins in the UAE from August 27 to September 11.

Opening batsmen Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq, wicketkeeper-batter Mohammad Haris, middle-order batter Salman Ali Agha and leg-spinner Zahid Mehmood will be part of ODI team. Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed and Usman Qadir will join the squad for the Asia Cup.

Pakistan will hold a training camp in Lahore this week before the squad flies to Amsterdam on August 12.

The Asia Cup was supposed to be held in Sri Lanka but the economic crisis in the country forced tournament organisers to move to the emirates.

UAE, Kuwait, Singapore and Hong Kong will play a qualifying round for the Asia Cup with the winner joining India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh in the main tournament.

There, six teams will be divided into two groups. India, Pakistan and the qualifier are in Group A, while Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are in Group B.

The top two teams in each group qualify for the Super 4 round, where the sides will play against each other again before the top two qualify for the final.

The highlight of the tournament will be the match between India and Pakistan in Dubai on August 28. It will be the first clash between the two sides since their T20 World Cup match in the UAE last year.

Updated: August 03, 2022, 12:35 PM