Mohammad Hafeez talks to reporters in Lahore. File / AP
Pakistan has left out veteran batsman Mohammad Hafeez from its Twenty20 squad for the series against South Africa because he would not meet the Pakistan Cricket Board's (PCB) deadline for players to enter a bio-secure bubble.
The PCB also dropped struggling opener Fakhar Zaman from the squad named by selectors on Sunday for the Twenty20 international series against South Africa next month.
Babar Azam will lead the squad, which also sees comebacks for pacer Hasan Ali, all-rounder Aamer Yamin and batsman Asif Ali. Uncapped leg-spinner Zahid Mahmood, all-rounder Amad Butt and batsman Danish Aziz are also part of the 20-man squad, while pacer Wahab Riaz is left out.
The PCB had said that all players had to be in the team's bubble by Feb.3 ahead of the three-match series against the Proteas that starts on Feb.11.
Hafeez, who is not among the PCB's centrally contracted players, is currently playing in the T10 League in the UAE. He had asked the PCB to allow him to join the team in Lahore after the Feb.3 deadline.
Chief selector Mohammad Waseem speaks during a press conference in Lahore on Sunday. AFP
"Unfortunately, the scenario is as such that every player has to join the (bio) bubble on Feb.3 and if a player can’t do so, it means he is unavailable,” chief selector Mohammad Wasim said.
"If he (Hafeez) was available, there’s no question on his performance, but unfortunately he is not available.”
Hafeez, 40, has scored 2,323 runs in 99 Twenty20 internationals at a strike rate of 121.30 and 14 half centuries. He was the world’s leading T20 cricketer last year, scoring 415 runs in 10 matches at an average of 83 and a strike rate of 152.57.
The selectors have recalled Asif Ali, who is also playing in the T10 League in the UAE, but Wasim said the batsman will join the team by the Feb.3 deadline.
The selectors dropped opening batsman Fakhar Zaman and fast bowler Wahab Riaz due to their recent poor performances while all-rounder Shadab Khan is still nursing a leg injury. Pakistan’s other Twenty20 regular — all-rounder Imad Wasim — was unavailable because of a family commitment.
Left-handed opener Fakhar could score only 192 runs in his last 17 Twenty20 internationals at an average of 11.29 while left-arm fast bowler Riaz took six wickets in his last 8 T20 internationals.
In addition to Asif, fast bowler Hasan Ali and Aamer Yamir were also recalled to the Twenty20 team that also includes four rookie players — Zafar Gohar, Danish Aziz, Zahid Mehmood and Amad Butt.
The South African Twenty20 squad will arrive in Pakistan on Feb.3. All three matches will be played in Lahore on Feb.11, 13 and 14.
The PCB said that Pakistan players taking part in the Test series against South Africa who are also part of the Twenty20 team will join the bubble in Lahore at the end of the second test, which starts in Rawalpindi on Feb.4.
Babar Azam (captain), Haider Ali, Khushdil Shah, Hussain Talat, Danish Aziz, Asif Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Zafar Gohar, Faheem Ashraf, Aamer Yamin, Amad Butt, Mohammad Rizwan, Safaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain, Hasan Ali, Usman Qadir, Zahid Mehmood.
The selectors have included three exciting uncapped pace bowlers in 19-year-old Mohammad Wasim Junior, 20-year-old Arshad Iqbal, and 22-year-old Shahnawaz Dhani in multiple squads. Ace leg-spinner Yasir Shah will miss the tour as he is recovering from a knee injury.
The Cricket South Africa on Sunday informed that the Proteas team members have tested negative for the novel coronavirus in the first round of testing conducted upon their arrival in Karachi.
The home team had won the toss and batted on a flat, brownish Rawalpindi Stadium pitch, which helped spinners from the outset, but Pakistan recovered from the early loss of three wickets.
South Africa were in trouble at 106-4 after the second day's play on a tricky Rawalpindi stadium pitch, trailing Pakistan's first innings total of 272 by 166 runs. Earlier, Nortje grabbed his third five-wicket haul with 5-56 to restrict Pakistan's total.
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