Pakistan’s regular number three Test batsman Azhar Ali will be unavailable for the second Test against England — starting on Thursday — as he is yet to be granted a visa by the UAE, while ace spinner Yasir Shah will make a return to the starting fold.
Problems in the Pakistan camp started when Azhar had to miss the first Test due to a foot infection and Yasir sat out because of back spasms in the eventually drawn Test.
Incoming Shoaib Malik’s 245-run effort ensured that Azhar was not missed at least in the series opener, but the latter has made the number three spot his own with consistent displays whereas there are still question marks over Malik’s consistency.
2nd Test: Yasir Shah’s Warne-ing to England
And although Yasir is now fully fit and raring to go, Azhar was limited to Lahore till the filing of this report as he was waiting for the arrival of his visa. The Pakistan ODI captain had earlier returned home upon the demise of his mother-in-law.
Relevant Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) officials confirmed that Azhar would not be joining the squad in time to be considered for the playing 11.
“Azhar is definitely out of contention as his visa is yet to arrive,” a PCB spokesman told The Express Tribune. “The PCB had sought a three-month visa for all players but since Azhar returned to Pakistan upon the death of his mother-in-law, his visa had to be reapplied for. It takes at least three to four days for the UAE visa to arrive.”
Misbah looks up to Yasir, Cook demands resilience from team
Meanwhile, former off-spinner Tauseef Ahmed said that Yasir’s return will certainly be a big boost for Pakistan. “Yasir’s comeback would certainly lift the dressing room’s spirits which had sunk due to a tough fightback from England on the last days of the first Test,” said Tauseef.
“It will be a different challenge now for England as Yasir has been in good form and has become the number one spinner of Pakistan.”
However, Tauseef warned that Dubai’s spin-friendly pitch can prove to be a double-edged sword for the men in green in the second Test. “We must not forget that England spinners gave us a real problem,” he said. “We can’t take the threat of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali lightly and our batsmen will have to be at their best to neutralise the threat.”
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Cook wants England to be first to beat Pakistan
Skipper Alastair Cook said he wanted England to become the first team to beat Pakistan in their adopted home of UAE, comparing it to beating India in India.
Cook captained England to a remarkable come-from-behind 2-1 win over India in India a few months after watching a team led by his predecessor Andrew Strauss routed 3-0 by Pakistan in the UAE in 2012.
Cook said India and Pakistan posed the same challenge. “No-one has beaten Pakistan here yet and it would be great to be the first side to do it,” he said.
Pakistan have not lost any of the previous seven series in the UAE, where they were forced to play after international cricket was suspended on their home grounds following the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 22nd, 2015.
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