In New Zealand, Sohail Khan took seven first-innings wickets but failed to take any in the second over the two Tests © Getty Images
Pakistan are “comfortable” with their selection of Sohail Khan for the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, despite Mickey Arthur’s comments during the first Test in Brisbane that he had doubts about the bowler’s endurance levels.
Pakistan made one change to their XI from Brisbane, picking Sohail in place of Rahat Ali. That may have come as a surprise to those who heard Arthur’s comments on ABC radio during the first Test, made, incidentally, in defense of the pace attack selected for that game.
“Sohail Khan comes in and swings it right arm, but I’ve got a doubt about Sohail’s comebackability,” Arthur had said at the time. “If he has got to bowl, his first spell’s very good, his second spell’s okay, his third spell is tough and then you just don’t get anything more. That puts a lot of pressure on our other units.”
Sohail’s ability to return after his first and second spells has been in question since he made his Test return to Pakistan on the tour to England this year. Though he picked two five-fors in consecutive Tests, he often struggled to make an impact in his later spells and in the second innings.
That would seem to be borne out by his career stats: 21 of his 24 Test wickets have come in the first fielding innings, while he averages 123 per wicket in the second innings.
On Pakistan’s tour to New Zealand, however, he put together a couple of long spells and ended up bowling more overs – 70 – in the two Tests than any bowler on either side, bar Tim Southee.
Pakistan decided to go with Sohail’s potential impact with the new ball over Imran Khan’s sturdier, more energetic presence. Arthur said Sohail had made an impression during training since they arrived in Melbourne – Sohail missed the first day with an upset stomach – but stopped short of u-turning on his earlier assessment.
“He has bowled beautifully,” Arthur said. “He has trained exceptionally, that’s all I can say. I don’t know if you’ve seen him lately, he has lost seven-eight kilos, he’s the first guy in the gym at six in the morning. He does his training, he bowls two-three spells in the nets every day. He has been excellent and I sort of doff my cap to him because he has been outstanding, almost been a model professional for us over the last month or so.
“Time will tell though. He knows exactly what the concerns are around him. We’re comfortable we have picked what we think is the best attack. It just gives us a little bit more balance. He has swung the ball nicely. He’s a right-armer. On this wicket you don’t want to give too many areas for Nathan Lyon to bowl so we wanted to keep one right-armer to attack.”
Speaking to Geo TV later, Arthur pointed to the many positives in selecting Sohail. “Sohail Khan’s ability has never been in doubt. He swings the ball and bowls at a good pace. He is a very, very fine bowler.
“And what I said in the [ABC] interview was a fact – that we have concerns around him coming back – but there are so many positives about him. He swings the ball at a good pace and he is a real trier. So I am comfortable that he has done everything we wanted him to do and the proof of the pudding is going to be in how he performs.”
Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo