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Amir, Shadab flex muscles ahead of World Cup


May 23, 2019

KARACHI: When Pakistan take on Afghanistan on Friday (tomorrow) in the first of their two warm-up games of the ICC World Cup, they will make at least two changes to the playing eleven that was hammered in the fifth One-day International by England last week.

The fit-again duo of Mohammad Amir and Shadab Khan will just walk in the playing line-up though earning a place in the first string won’t be this easy for comeback pacer Wahab Riaz. A team official told ‘The News’ on Wednesday that both Amir and Shadab were in full flow when they attended a team training session of the Pakistan squad in Bristol.

“Though all the squad members took part in the training session, the focus was mostly on Amir and Shadab, because they have recently joined us,” a team official said. “It was heartening to see that both of them in fine nick. The two have certainly added balance to the squad,” he added.

Amir, who has been dogged by indifferent form, was snubbed by national selectors when they initially selected a 15-man Pakistan squad for the World Cup. His inability to take wickets since a match-winning showing in the ICC Champions Trophy final in 2017 meant that Amir was no more an obvious choice for selectors. It was only after Pakistan’s pace attack flopped in the 4-0 drubbing against England that the selectors were forced to change their mind.

Amir almost didn’t make it to the World Cup squad after contacting chickenpox. However, according to a team official, Amir has now fully recovered. “He was bowling in the nets with a lot of rhythm today and that’s certainly a great sign for us,” said the official.

Amir is all set to play in both the warm-up games – against Afghanistan and Bangladesh – and should be in the playing eleven for Pakistan’s World Cup opener against the West Indies on May 31.

Similarly, young leg-spinner Shadab is also expected to play both practice games to get match fit ahead of the May 31 game against the Windies. Shadab had a major scare when he tested positive for Hepatitis C and there were doubt whether he would be able to be a part of Pakistan’s World Cup campaign.

“Thankfully, Shadab has fully recovered. He is looking fit. He spent a lot of times in the nets. He bowled and then spent a lot of time batting. He certainly strengthens our line-up as he an all-round player and a superb fielder,” the official said.

While Amir and Shadab are set to find spots in the playing eleven, Wahab will have to earn his place. A surprise inclusion in the squad, Wahab was scheduled to join the Pakistan team on Wednesday night. “Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Hasnain bowled really well in the nets today which means that it would be tough for the team’s think-tank to overlook them and opt for Wahab,” the official said.

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