Crescent Kashmir

Imam, Bilal return for Bangladesh Tests; Dahani, Haris axed

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LAHORE: Untested fast bowler Shahnawaz Dahani along with Imran Butt and Haris Rauf were excluded to include opener Imam-ul-Haq, middle-order batter Kamran Ghulam and off-spinner Bilal Asif as the national selection committee on Monday announced the Pakistan Test squad for the two-match series in Bangladesh starting later this month.

The first Test will be held in Chittagong from Nov 26 to 30 and the second in Dhaka from Dec 4 to 8.

The 23-year-old Dahani caught the eyes of the selectors and was included in the two-Test series against the West Indies at Kingston last August but was not given any chance.

The right-armer was also among the travelling reserves in the ICC T20 World Cup squad but was not tested.

“Opener Imam-ul-Haq, middle-order batter Kamran Ghulam and off-spinner Bilal Asif have been named in the 20-player squad, replacing Haris Rauf, Imran Butt, Shahnawaz Dahani and Yasir Shah, who were part of the 21-player side that toured the West Indies in July-August,” the PCB stated in a media release.

Left-handed Imam has been recalled following his brilliant performances in the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy in which he has aggregated 488 runs in five innings, including an unbeaten double century. Imam last played in a Test against Australia in Adelaide in November-December 2019 and holds a very modest batting average of 25.52 in 11 Tests compared to his ODI average of 49.34.

Bilal, 36, has replaced leg-spinner Yasir Shah who is still recovering from a thumb injury he sustained during the National T20 Cup and is yet to feature in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. Bilal, who has claimed 16 wickets at an average of 26.50 in five Tests, last played a Test in December 2018 when he played against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi.

The 26-year-old Kamran has returned to the national Test side after missing the West Indies tour. He was part of the squad for the home series against South Africa after amassing a record 1,249 runs in the 2020-21 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

Yet to play an international game for the national senior team, Kamran is presently in Sri Lanka with the Pakistan Shaheens where he scored 58 not out and 45 in two innings of the rain-affected two-match four-day series.

Commenting on the squad, chief selector Mohammad Wasim said: “We have selected the squad following discussions with the team management and after taking into consideration the opposition’s potential make-up and the conditions in which the Tests will be played.

“As we already have four frontline fast bowlers, we have allowed Haris Rauf and Shahnawaz Dahani to return to Pakistan after the T20Is so that they can play in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and prepare for the [home] Australia Tests. An in-form left-handed Imam-ul-Haq has replaced Imran Butt, who managed to score at 17.8 [average] in 10 Test innings, but he has a chance to continue to play and perform in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy so that he can force his way back in the side.

“Bangladesh are a strong side in their backyard but we have the resources, talent and experience to perform strongly and then carry that momentum into the Australia Tests, which will be part of the ICC World Test Championship,” Wasim concluded.

A three-match T20 International series between the two countries will be played in Dhaka prior to the Test rubber.

Test squad:

Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan (vice-captain), Abdullah Shafique, Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Bilal Asif, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Kamran Ghulam, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Zahid Mahmood.

Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2021

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