Pakistan batsman got a good workout in their warm-up match against Northamptonshire with middle order batsman Asad Shafiq scoring an unbeaten 135 as the visitors reached 357-7 on the second day of their match on Saturday.
After leg-spinner Shadab Khan picked up six wickets in the first innings to dismiss the hosts for 259, it was the turn of Pakistan’s batsman to get some form under their belt.
Openers Azhar Ali (9) and Imam-ul-Haq (11) failed to get going but one-down batsman Haris Sohail (79) and Shafiq kept the Northants bowler at bay with a 136-run stand for the third wicket.
After Sohail was dismissed by off-spinner Rob Keogh (3-83), Babar Azam stepped in and scored 57 while adding 110 with Shafiq.
Shafiq, 32, hit 11 fours and three sixes during his 224-ball innings as Pakistan batsmen gained some confidence after being bowled out for 168 in their opening warm-up fixture against Kent.
Young Shadab picked up six wickets as Northamptonshire were bowled out for 259 on the first day of the four-day game. Openers Azhar Ali and Imam-ul-Haq negotiated four overs safely with Pakistan 6-0 by the time stumps were called on Friday.
Northamptonshire skipper Rob Newton won the toss and elected to bat first. The skipper formed a decent opening partnership of 36 runs with Ben Duckett who was the first to fall after being dismissed by pacer Rahat Ali.
The home side had recovered from the loss of two wickets in quick succession with a half-century stand between Newton and Richard Levi for the third wicket. That is when the Shadab show started with the 19-year-old trapping Levi lbw before finding the edge off Newton’s bat which Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed gathered safely.
The Northamptonshire middle-order had no answer to the wrist-spinner’s back of tricks with Josh Cobb and Rob Keogh becoming his next victims.
Adam Rossington top scored for the hosts with a knock of 90 runs and he became Shadab’s final victim with Sarfraz completing an excellent stumping.
Rahat ended up with two scalps while Haris Sohail claimed one wicket for Pakistan. Shadab was called up the Test side for the first time after senior spinner Yasir Shah was ruled out for the tours of Ireland and England.
The one-off Test between Ireland and Pakistan will get underway in Dublin on May 11.
Pakistan chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq laughed off suggestions that the management had made a mistake by not selecting any back-up wicketkeeping options for the tour of England.
Captain Sarfraz Ahmed is the only recognised wicketkeeper in the 16-man squad for the tour to England and Ireland. Pakistan play one Test against Ireland and two against England along with three first-class matches, the first of which finished on Tuesday.
Inzamam was asked whether selectors had missed a trick by not picking a second man behind the stumps, with one reporter asking what happens if Sarfraz gets injured or even catches a cold. Inzamam replied jokingly: “We will try that Sarfraz doesn’t catch a cold.”
According to statistician Mazher Arshad, no team in the last five years has toured England with just one wicketkeeper. Keeping that in mind, it’s even more perplexing Pakistan have started their tour with no back up for their wicketkeeper captain.