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'Included Faheem Ashraf in the side as preparation for England Tests' - Azhar Ali
Pakistan News

'Included Faheem Ashraf in the side as preparation for England Tests' - Azhar Ali

Azhar Ali has admitted the decision to recall Faheem Ashraf into the Test squad was taken keeping in mind the England tour later this year.

Pakistan's next Test assignment following the completion of the home series against Bangladesh, is the three-match series against England starting July 30.

Faheem, who has replaced Usman Shinwari in Pakistan's squad for the Rawalpindi Test, was part of the line-up during Pakistan's previous Test series in England where he offered ample support to the frontline seamers. Faheem fulfilled his role as the fourth bowling option and even delivered a counterpunch with the bat by conjuring a quick-fire 37 in Pakistan's commanding victory at Lord's in 2018.

He is now being touted as a valuable commodity in Pakistan's Test unit with skipper Azhar stating the need for adding depth to the batting and bowling departments.

“We have included Faheem Ashraf in the squad keeping in mind the future Test series. We are developing our bowling attack to include an additional seamer," he told reporters the eve of the first Test against Bangladesh.

"We are not in the ideal situation yet in terms of a fast-bowling all-rounder, who can support us as a fourth pacer. That support is important in away series. When three bowlers play, they have to bowl repeatedly and that tires them out."

Pakistan's decision to potentially tinker with the combination, which ensured a series win over Sri Lanka, is driven by the fact that the pace battery comprising Mohammad Abbas, Shaheen Afridi and Naseem Shah was among the wickets in their 263-run triumph in Karachi.

"The conditions we are seeing in Pakistan, these are conducive for fast bowling and such an all-rounder can play a crucial role," Azhar said.

"We are focused on creating that ideal combination right now where we have a fast-bowling all-rounder in the mix.”

He was quick to identify Pakistan's pace bowling as their major strength despite the narrative surrounding the prevalence of slow surfaces in the subcontinent.

"At the moment we feel that our pace bowling is a threat for oppositions. We feel that we will win Test matches with our fast bowlers."

'I have regained my confidence after scoring a century'

Azhar also seeks to address his extended slump in the longest format since his failure at the top of the order has often burdened Pakistan's middle-order.

He was able to recoup confidence in his last outing, managing to score a splendid century against Sri Lanka to bolster Pakistan's lead.

With the weight of runs under his belt, Azhar hopes to perpetuate the good run and make worthwhile contributions to his team.

“I have not been playing that well from the last series or so. But the good thing is that I have regained my confidence after scoring a century in my previous Test."

"I have also scored runs in first-class cricket so I would like to continue my form. I have put in the required hard work.”

Azhar's men face a depleted Bangladesh side short on experience in the first Test due to commence on Friday. Although the hosts start as firm favourites, the 34-year-old veteran cautioned against complacency.

"Bangladesh can be a very competitive side, can surprise you, so we are not taking them lightly. They still have players who can give match-winning performances," Azhar said.