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Uncapped Haider included in Pakistan squad for England tour

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan has selected teenager Haider Ali in an extended squad of 29 players for the three tests and three Twenty20 cricket internationals against England. The series is scheduled for August-September and, with the coronavirus pandemic in mind, Pakistan has picked an extended squad in case a players fall ill during the tour.

All players and support staff will undergo testing for COVID-19 between June 20-25. Selectors have Bilal Asif, Imran Butt, Musa Khan and Mohammad Nawaz on standby in case any players in the squad test positive.

“The selectors have picked a squad which gives us the best chance of success in England,” chief selector and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said. "It was a challenging process as the players have not played for an extended period of time, but nevertheless, with the month that we will have in England and the intense training we will undergo, we are confident we will get the players up to the mark.”

Misbah said the selectors have focused on red ball cricket as the three test matches will be part of ICC’s World Test Championship. While the Pakistan players have been keeping themselves fit mostly indoors for around three months, England will be coming off a series against the West Indies.

“The series against England will be challenging as our players have not played any competitive cricket since March,” Misbah said. “This means we will have to hit the ground running as soon as we land.

The 19-year-old Haider was recently awarded a central contract in the emerging players category after he scored 645 runs in Pakistan’s premier first-class tournament -- Quaid-e-Azam Trophy -- at an average of just under 50.

Earlier this year, the right-handed batsman also scored 239 runs in nine matches during the domestic Twenty20 tournament -- the Pakistan Super League -- at a strike rate of over 158 for Peshawar Zalmi.

Spinner Kashif Bhatti, who went on the tour to Australia last year, is another uncapped player in the squad. Fast bowler Sohail Khan has been recalled four years after playing the last of his nine test matches, on the basis of his 22 wickets in nine Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches.

“He had two five-fors when he last played in England in 2016," Misbah said. “The selectors also felt he bowled much better in the 2019-20 domestic season than his figures reflected.” Pakistan will be without three of its key players in both red ball and limited-overs cricket. Fast bowler Hasan Ali was ruled out of the series because of a back injury. Mohammad Amir withdrew to be at the birth of his second child in August, and Haris Sohail opted out of the tour.

Squad: Abid Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali (captain for test matches), Babar Azam (Twenty20 captain), Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Haider Ali, Iftikhar Ahmad, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Imran Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Afridi, Sohail Khan, Usman Shinwari, Wahab Riaz, Imad Wasim, Kashif Bhatti, Shadab Khan, Yasir Shah.

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