England will not have to face their 2012 tormentor Saeed Ajmal in next month’s three-Test series against Pakistan, after the off-spinner was left out of the 15-man squad announced on Wednesday.
Ajmal, who turns 38 next month, has faced a tough time since returning to cricket from a five-month suspension after his bowling action was found to be illegal by the International Cricket Council last year.
Since making his comeback with a remodelled action against Bangladesh in April, he has shown little of the form that brought him 24 wickets during Pakistan’s 3-0 whitewash over then-world number one Test team England in the United Arab Emirates three years ago.
He has also performed poorly for English county side Worcestershire, his 16 wickets this season coming at almost 56 apiece. Fast-rising leg-spinner Yasir Shah and left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar have filled the void in the national team.
The duo were instrumental in Pakistan’s 2-0 win over Australia last year and 2-1 triumph in Sri Lanka this year.
Chief selector Haroon Rasheed said Shah and Babar’s form more than made up for the loss of Ajmal.
“Presently, Shah and Babar are bowling outstandingly,” Rasheed told AFP. “Ajmal has not been bowling as well with a remodelled action and I am sure both Babar and Shah will to a great extent fulfil the requirement.”
Head coach Waqar Younis said the veteran off-spinner faced a tough choice.
“It’s a great challenge for Ajmal to overcome the lack of bite in his new action and he has to decide about his future,” Waqar said last week. “His recent bowling figures were not encouraging.”
All-rounder Fawad Alam meanwhile could end his five-year absence from Test cricket after being named in the squad for the Test series, which starts in Abu Dhabi on October 13.
The 29-year-old scored 168 on his debut in 2009 but played only two more matches before being dropped.
Alam has a strong domestic record and supporters from his home city of Karachi have consistently demanded his recall.
Rasheed said they were keeping the option of adding another player to the squad, at captain Misbah-ul-Haq’s request.
“We have kept the options open for the 16th player in the Test squad against England, picking two left-arm spin bowlers, Zafar Gohar and Mohammad Asghar, for the brace of practice games and whoever amongst the two performs well would be added to the Test squad,” he said.
Pacemen Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz also returned to the squad after missing part of the Sri Lanka Test series in July.
Squad: Misbah-ul-Haq, Ahmed Shehzad, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Fawad Alam, Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan, Sarfraz Ahmed, Yasir Shah, Zulfiqar Babar, Wahab Riaz, Imran Khan, Rahat Ali, Junaid Khan