Yasir in Pakistan squad for Sri Lanka Tests

Pakistani cricketer Yasir Shah. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 September 2017
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Yasir in Pakistan squad for Sri Lanka Tests

LAHORE: Pakistan’s prolific leg-spinner Yasir Shah passed a late fitness test Saturday to join the 16-man squad for the two-match Test series against Sri Lanka starting next week.
The 31-year-old has been team’s leading wicket-taker since making his debut in 2014, with a tally of 149 scalps in 26 Tests.
Shah’s 24 wickets in three Tests helped Pakistan beat Sri Lanka away in 2015 but the stocky spinner has struggled for fitness in the past few months.
Chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said Shah was told in clear terms that he would not be selected if he didn’t pass the final fitness test.
“Yasir has been our main bowler for the way he has taken wickets consistently, but he needed to maintain a fitness standard and was told he had to pass the test and he did to get a place in the squad,” said Inzamam while announcing the squad.
The first Test starts in Abu Dhabi from Thursday. The second Test — a day-night affair — will be played in Dubai from October 6.
The two teams will also play five one-day internationals and three Twenty20s, the last of which will be in Lahore on October 29 — subject to security clearance.
The series will be Pakistan’s first without stalwarts Younes Khan and former skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, who both retired following the team’s last series in the West Indies in May.
Sarfraz Ahmed, already leading Pakistan in one-day and Twenty20 internationals, will lead the Test side for the first time, with youngsters Usman Salahuddin and Babar Azam likely to fill in for the two greats.
“I am sure youngsters will try their best to fill the places left by Misbah and Younes and do their best,” said Inzamam.
Pakistan have also selected 25-year-old uncapped left-arm fast bowler Mir Hamza who has taken 216 wickets in 46 first class matches.
The squad has five fast bowlers and three spinners.
The 31-year-old spinner Bilal Asif has not played a Test but has featured in three one-day internationals in the past.
Squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Sami Aslam, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Asghar, Bilal Asif, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas, Wahab Riaz


World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah "is ready to play against Russia"

Updated 46 min 59 sec ago
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World Cup boost for Egypt as Mohamed Salah "is ready to play against Russia"

  • Liverpool star took part in full training
  • Egypt team manager says Salah is poised to make his World Cup bow

ST PETERSBURG: Mohamed Salah is a looming obstacle as Russia attempt to virtually secure their place in the knockout stages of the World Cup in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.
Fears that poor performances from the home side could dampen enthusiasm in the host nation were blown away by a 5-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia in the opening game.
The seven-time African champions will pose a much tougher task, but a lot will depend upon Salah's fitness.
Liverpool star Salah has not featured since leaving the field in tears early in the Champions League final just over three weeks ago after landing heavily on his left shoulder and had to watch from the bench as Egypt lost 1-0 to Uruguay in their opening game.
Salah has been declared 100 percent fit by Egypt's team doctor and his agent, leaving little doubt he will be thrown back into action in the Pharaohs' hour of need.
However, as he returned to training on Saturday, Salah was seen by AFP reporters at Egypt's training camp in Grozny needing help from teammates to lift a training top over his head.
"Salah participated in training with his teammates for the entire session and he is ready to play against Russia according to technical staff," Egypt's team manager Ihab Leheta told FIFA.com.
Egypt coach Hector Cuper's decision not to risk Salah against Uruguay may have been influenced by the fact his side held out for 89 minutes before conceding to Jose Gimenez, by which time the Argentine had made all three of his substitutions.
"Russia's game is fateful and difficult because of our defeat against Uruguay," said Leheta. "Winning is our only choice".
If fully fit, the sight of Salah, who scored 44 goals in a remarkable debut season at Liverpool, will strike fear into the Russians.
Concerns Russia could become just the second host nation to bow out of the World Cup at the group stage after a seven-game winless run ahead of the tournament have been alleviated by a perfect start.
With Uruguay favourites to top the group, though, Russia are keen not to have to rely on getting something from their final group game against the two-time former world champions.
"The second game will be our most important one in the group stage," said Russia's deputy prime minister and former football federation president Vitaly Mutko after attending Russia's training session on Sunday.
A close ally of President Vladimir Putin, Mutko oversaw preparations for the tournament at a cost of more than $13 billion.
"In the first match, everyone saw how much the players cared. If we play up to our level, I don't see any problems."
Denis Cheryshev was Russia's hero against Saudi Arabia as he came off the bench to score twice.
And the Villarreal winger accepted it will be a more "interesting" clash if Salah is fit.
"If he's not there, does that mean our task becomes easy? Not at all," he told FIFA.com "If he plays, it will be hard but more interesting. He's one of the best and you always want to compete with the best and win."
Russia will be without one of their key players, with Alan Dzagoev expected to miss the rest of the tournament with a hamstring injury.