Depleted Pakistan cricket squad leaves for England
LAHORE: The Pakistan cricket squad left on Sunday for their England tour without 10 players who had tested positive for coronavirus.
Test skipper Azhar Ali said the team was looking forward to playing in what will be some of the first Test matches since the Covid-19 pandemic sparked a global lockdown.
“All the players are excited after a tough period,” said Azhar on the eve of departure.
“Though a tour to England has always been challenging, our performances there on the last two tours [in 2016 and 2018] are encouraging and we will try to repeat those.”
Pakistan drew a four-Test series 2-2 in 2016 and a two-match series 1-1 two years later.
A chartered plane carried 20 squad members including two reserves, who were seen wearing face masks and observing social distancing at Lahore airport in pictures released by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
The squad will face a two-week isolation period on arrival before continuing their preparations ahead of the first Test with two four-day warm-up matches.
The travelling party did not include 10 players who tested positive for the virus last week. Six later tested negative for the virus, and will be allowed to rejoin the squad once they have had two consecutive negative results.
Pakistan are due to play three Tests against England in August followed by three Twenty20 internationals.
Younis says Archer 'a major threat' in England, Pakistan clashes
Pakistan batting coach and former cricketing great Younis Khan singled out fast-rising paceman Jofra Archer as a "major threat" in his team's forthcoming matches against England.
Younis said 25-year-old Archer has made a reputation for himself since qualifying to play for England and going on to play a key role in last year's Ashes and triumphant World Cup campaign.
"He (Archer) is a real match winner and a threat," Younis told AFP before the team's departure. "Archer has strong nerves which he proved while bowling a crucial super over in the World Cup final," said Younis of England's nail-biting win over New Zealand at Lord's last year.
"He has bite in his bowling and his high arm action is very good and gives him nip in his bowling," he added.
But Younis — himself playing a key role in Pakistan's 2-2 series draw in England in 2016 with a double hundred in the last Test at The Oval — said Barbados-born Archer can be countered.
"There is hype around him so that can be an added pressure on him. I have told the batsmen to play close to the body and play on the back foot because his in-swinger can be very dangerous."
Younis remembered playing Archer in Pakistan's practice game against Sussex in 2016.
"I remember playing him in the side game," said Younis of Archer's debut first-class match. "He got five wickets in the match but was not on top of his bowling at the time like he is now."
Pakistan's highest Test run scorer with 10,099, Younis said Pakistan should also be cautious of England's most experienced bowlers — James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
"Anderson and Broad have a wealth of experience. They are always a great pair. Whenever England have won they have the major share, but in August the weather will be dry and not very overcast so they can be handled properly."