Pakistan's Shaheen Afridi and India's Khaleel Ahmed in battle of emerging left-arm quicks in Asia Cup

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Shaheen Afridi (l) and Khaleel Ahmed.

The upcoming Asia Cup tournament in the UAE won’t feature India captain Virat Kohli, robbing the tournament of some of its sheen. However there are still many interesting plots in the tournament that should enthrall fans.

While the India-Pakistan clash on September 19 is on everyone radar, two players have raised the interest levels following their selection for the Asia Cup. And that’s because they are young and exciting left-arm fast bowlers.

Cricket has had a special relation with left-arm pacers. The novelty they bring to the game is such that many times they get a spot in the playing XI just because they bowl left arm.

The selection of Pakistan teen sensation Shaheeh Afridi and India’s left-arm pacer Khaleel Ahmed in their respective sides has raised the prospects of witnessing the defining moments of possibly successful careers.

Afridi grabbed headlines earlier in the year as he starred during the Under-19 World Cup. There he finished with 12 wickets from five games but more importantly, impressed with his build, high-arm action and extreme pace.

Afridi continued his excellent work for Lahore Qalandars in the Pakistan Super League and earned his international cap by April, in the T20 against West Indies in Karachi.

The 18-year-old has played three T20s and should make his ODI debut at some stage in the Asia Cup which also includes India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and another qualifier.

Pakistan have left-arm ace Mohammad Amir in their line-up while there is also Usman Shenwari and Junaid Khan. But given that Afridi is quicker than all of them, he could be picked as the second left-armer especially against lighter teams.

India, on the other hand, have picked rookie left-arm paceman Ahmed. The 20-year-old hails from Tonk in the Indian state of Rajasthan and has 28 wickets from 17 List ‘A’ matches and 17 wickets from 12 T20 games.

Since July, he has been part of the India ‘A’ team for 50-over matches and has picked up at least one wicket in nine successive games, in England and at home. His best efforts in recent months were 3-45 against South Africa ‘A’ in Bengaluru and 3-48 against England Lions in London.

Since India haven’t had any quality left-arm fast bowler for many years, Ahmed also has a good chance of getting game-time at some stage in the tournament.

He is reported to have added a few yards of pace to his bowling and that should convince the team management of giving the youngster an outing even on the sluggish surfaces in the UAE.

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Woakes and Pope added to England squad for fifth Test against India

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Chris Woakes hit his maiden Test century at Lord's.

Chris Woakes and Ollie Pope have been added to England‘s squad ahead of their final Test clash with India, with former captain Alastair Cook primed for his curtain call at The Oval.

Warwickshire star Woakes and Surrey batsman Pope come in to make a 13-man squad that will prepare for the fifth Test that starts on Friday in London.

England wrapped up a 3-1 series victory with their 60-run triumph in the fourth Test in Southampton, and will now bid to hand Essex star Cook a farewell win before his international retirement.

Cook has racked up an England record 12,254 runs in 160 Tests for England, with 32 centuries, but the 33-year-old will retire after one more tussle with India.

England’s squad – the same XI that faced India in the fourth Test plus Woakes and Pope – offers precious few clues as to the long-term direction of the side once Cook departs.

It also remains to be seen who will keep wicket, with Jos Buttler having stepped into the role in Southampton given Jonny Bairstow was struggling with a broken finger.

Pope will link up with England on Thursday morning, after playing for Surrey in the first two days of their County Championship division one clash with Essex in Chelmsford.

ENGLAND SQUAD TO FACE INDIA AT THE OVAL: Joe Root (Yorkshire, capt), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Jimmy Anderson (Lancashire), Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Jos Buttler (Lancashire), Alastair Cook (Essex), Sam Curran (Surrey), Keaton Jennings (Lancashire), Ollie Pope (Surrey), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Ben Stokes (Durham), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire).

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Anderson hails retiring England batsman Cook's influence on his own career

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James Anderson and Alastair Cook have played together for over a decade.

James Anderson believes he could never have become England‘s all-time leading Test wicket-taker without Alastair Cook’s help.

Cook will retire from international duty after the fifth and final Test against India, that starts at The Oval on Friday.

And pace great Anderson, out on his own in England terms with 559 Test wickets and counting, hailed the former skipper’s impact on himself and those around him.

“He’s probably the most driven person I’ve ever met,” said Anderson, in his column for The Sun.

“His work ethic is phenomenal. He trains harder physically than anybody and works tirelessly in the nets.

“He is an incredible example to everyone and I include myself in that.

“I don’t think I’d have achieved what I have without Cooky, not just as a colleague and captain but as a friend and someone I look up to. I’ve always tried to follow his example.

“As a cricketer, he is the consummate professional. As a bloke, he is down to earth, loyal and caring.”

Cook has racked up an England record 12,254 runs in 160 Tests, with 32 centuries, and now has the chance to bow out on his own terms, aged 33.

Anderson admitted the England squad struggled to keep emotions in check when the Essex star explained his decision.

“It’s not often that you get a bunch of blokes moved by something,” said Anderson.

“But there were a few lumps in throats on Sunday evening because we’ve all been through so much together. Cooky had to keep his speech quite short because of the emotion.

“I was surprised and sad when he told me in Nottingham.

“But he says he knows the time is right and we all have to respect his decision.”

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