LAHORE: The Pakistan A squad due to face Australia in a four-day game that starts on Saturday will not feature any spinners. Given the series proper will in all likelihood have spinners playing a huge part, it was a squad that raised eyebrows. ESPNcricinfo understands it stems from a desire to deny Australia game time against quality spin ahead of the Test series.
Asad Shafiq will lead the Pakistan A squad against a full-strength Australia at the ICC Academy in Dubai. The 14-man squad also includes returning fast bowlers Wahab Riaz and Rahat Ali, both of whom have been out of national contention.
The apparent wish to deny Australia game time against quality spinners stems from the role they will invariably play once the Test matches start. In their previous outing in the UAE in 2014, Pakistan’s spinners had 26 wickets: Zulfiqar Babar, the left-arm spinner, bagged 14 while Yasir Shah picked up 12 in the two-Test series. The Australia spin duo was far less effective, with Nathan Lyon and Steve O’Keefe picking up a combined seven wickets.
The Australians, however, have former Indian cricketer and now a consultant with Australia Sridharan Sriram to help them on the spin front, and Sriram brought along two Indian spinners – Pardeep Sahu and KK Jiyas – to help Australia train. While they may not have the profile of Shadab Khan and Yasir Shah – both are uncapped at the national level – they seemingly provided valuable practice to the Australian players as they prepared for the Test series in Dubai.
Australia appears to understand the value of spinners in the UAE, having brought along a sizeable contingent of slow bowlers. Along with Nathan Lyon, left-armers Ashton Agar and Jon Holland are also part of the squad, and allrounder-legspinner Marnus Labuschagne is also part of the side. Travis Head could also serve as a part-time spin option.
Pakistan A squad: Sami Aslam, Abid Ali, Iftokhar Ahmed, Asad Shafiq (capt), Usman Saluahuddin, Saad Ali, Agha Salman, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Wahab Riaz, Rahat Ali, Waqas Maqsood, Aamer Yamin, Umaid Asif, Saud Shakeel