Mohammad Amir was left out of Pakistan’s preliminary 15-man World Cup squad on Thursday, though he will be given a chance to force his way into contention after being picked for the ODI series against England that precedes the tournament.
The left-arm pacer’s place in the squad was the biggest dilemma going into Thursday’s announcement. Since starring in the 2017 Champions Trophy final, Amir has taken five wickets in 101 overs in ODIs, at a shocking average of 92.60 – easily the worst among specialist fast bowlers in that time.
Veteran batsmen Shoaib Malik and Abid Ali were the other key question marks, and both were included in the preliminary squad. Ali’s recent domestic form had helped the 31-year-old state his case for inclusion as a reserve opener, especially after his century against Australia last month.
Power-hitter Asif Ali missed out, as did left-arm pacer Usman Shinwari, but there was vote of confidence for 18-year-old fast bowler Mohammad Hasnain, who is in the 15 despite having played just three ODIs. Imad Wasim has also been included despite struggling with a knee injury in recent months, while Mohammad Hafeez’s inclusion is subject to passing a fitness test.
Squad: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Abid Ali, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c & wk), Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Hasnain, Haris Sohail
Pakistan batsman Umar Akmal was fined 20 per cent of his match fee and handed an official reprimand for a late night out on the eve of the fifth ODI against Australia in Dubai.
Akmal posted a video of him at an Akon concert in Dubai. Pakistan Cricket Board revealed Umar “pleaded guilty to the charge, apologised for his actions and accepted the sanction proposed by team manager Talat Ali”.
PCB managing director Wasim Khan said: “I am glad that Umar has realised his mistake, and has accepted and apologised for his actions, which were clearly unprofessional and in no way can be ignored or overlooked.
“The PCB expects a high level of professionalism and commitment from its players, and this action is a reiteration and timely reminder that any indiscipline shall not be tolerated or accepted.”
According to reports, the Pakistan management are likely to request selectors to not consider the troubled batsman for World Cup selection.
Video that is allegedly Umar Akmal last night at a concert by Akon in Dubai pic.twitter.com/bql2QtOaku— Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassion) March 31, 2019
For the second straight match, Pakistan threatened to overhaul a stiff target posted by Australia, only to lose by a close margin.
Pakistan lost the fourth ODI in Dubai by six runs and on Sunday, went down by 20 despite a fighting century from Haris Sohail (130) and a daring 50 not out from stand-in captain Imad Wasim.
The Aussies piled up 327-7 in Dubai with opener Usman Khawaja continuing his fine form with 98 and star all-rounder Glenn Maxwell cracking 70 off just 33 balls.
From 136-3 in 24 overs, Pakistan made a serious attempt at the target with Umar Akmal scoring a fine 43. But a miserly 10-over spell from Maxwell that went for just 45 runs and also had the scalp of Mohammad Rizwan turned out to be deciding factor as Pakistan could only manage 307-7.
The hosts thus lost the series 0-5 as Australia romped to their eighth straight ODI win.
Top four make hay
Australia’s top order has come to the party at various points during the five match series. In the fifth game, all top four chipped in, compounding the problem for selectors who need to accommodate the returning David Warner and Steve Smith.
Opener Khawaja became the second Australian batsman in three days to be out for 98 after Maxwell in the fourth game.
Left-handed Khawaja has six fifty plus scores in his eight ODIs, including two tons. He added 134 for the opening wicket with captain Aaron Finch (53) which went a long way in diminishing Pakistan hopes.
While Khawaja, Finch and Shaun Marsh (61) took their time in scoring runs, Maxwell went into overdrive. At the start of the final 10 overs, Maxwell was on six from three balls. He used the bottom-handed check shot to great effect, hitting sixes down the ground off pacers Junaid Khan and Mohammad Abbas off successive overs. Two boundaries to square leg in three balls off Junaid brought up his fifty off just 26 balls.
Abbas and Shah struggle
They are the veterans of the Test arena but seamer Abbas and leg-spinner Yasir Shah just don’t inspire as much confidence on flat wickets in ODIs. In excellent batting conditions, the slow bowling of Abbas was taken apart by Australia as the Pakistan bowler went for 71 runs from his 10 overs. Leg-spinner Yasir too went wicketless in his 10 overs, going at more than six an over.
Had it not been for some superb death bowling by left-arm quick Usman Shinwari (4-49), Australia would have finished closer to 350.
Haris on the charge
Left-handed batsman Sohail has been in fine form, seemingly recovered from his knee troubles. Opener Abi Ali scored a ton in his debut but was brought down back to earth with a golden duck on Sunday. Sohail found an able ally in fellow southpaw Shan Masood. The two took the score past 100 before Masood fell lbw to Zampa.
Sohail had scored a ton in the first match of the series and teamed up with Akmal to add 102 runs for the fourth wicket and reach three figures himself. But in a span for six balls across the 40th and 41st over, both batsmen fell as Australia came roaring back. Pakistan were 239-5 in the 41st over and all but out of the match.
Imad has a go
Skipper Wasim had bowled well earlier, going for just 51 runs in his 10 overs. And with the game all but gone, he single handedly went after Australia’s bowlers to give his dressing room some hope. Six fours and a six gave Australia some anxious moments but the equation was always beyond Pakistan as they fell short by 20 runs.