Azhar Ali sounded a note of cautious optimism over Pakistan's preparations for the Test series in England.

Pakistan face the hosts in a three-match series starting at Old Trafford next month, with captain Azhar's side training in Worcester.

They staged an intra-squad friendly across Sunday and Monday and, after a three-month coronavirus-enforced break, Azhar was pleased by what he saw.

"Both batsmen and bowlers have adapted to the conditions," he told the Pakistan Cricket Board website.

"The wind was troubling the bowlers initially but they overcame it, which was heartening. Definitely, the players are going to need some time to adjust.

"Despite the break, they are in good shape, which is a positive sign for us.

"All the batsmen batted quite well, especially Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq and Abid Ali seemed in total control, Shan Masood adapted well to the conditions and Mohammad Rizwan looked in good shape.

"Mohammad Abbas is our experienced bowler and his presence is of advantage for us as he also keeps guiding the youngsters.

"He is someone who can be a very important member of the attack for us. Naseem Shah bowled very well in the scenario-based match. He will attain more control as he continues to bowl."

Pakistan's initial squad had to be altered after several players tested positive for coronavirus, but no cases of COVID-19 have been found within the touring party.

England will face Pakistan in a three-match Test series throughout August, the ECB has confirmed, with Australia's planned white-ball tour to be rescheduled.

Due to the impact of coronavirus, no international cricket has been played since March, though England will take on West Indies in a three-Test series that starts on Wednesday at the Ageas Bowl and then shifts to Old Trafford.

The Southampton venue will also host three ODIs between England and Ireland and two of the Tests with Pakistan, with the Test series starting at Old Trafford on August 5.

Old Trafford will then act as the venue for three Twenty20 internationals between the sides, starting on August 28. All matches will be played behind closed doors.

 

However, there are as yet no confirmed dates for Australia's white-ball tour, which had initially been planned to start on July 3.

"Confirmation of these matches against Ireland and Pakistan is another important step for our game as we begin to safely stage international cricket again, but also to minimise the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had, and will continue to have, on cricket at all levels," ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said.

"It has taken significant effort and expertise to allow us to reach a position where cricket is now ready and able to return to the field of play from the elite level to recreational cricket.

"We owe a significant debt of gratitude to the players, staff and administrators of the Cricket West Indies, Cricket Ireland, and the Pakistan Cricket Board for their willingness and co-operation to get international cricket back up and running and allow these matches to be staged.

"It must be reiterated that there is still much work for the ECB and the cricket network to do as we try to plot a path through this pandemic.

"We also continue to explore options to play [the] white-ball series against Australia this summer and hope to have news on the series soon."

Mohammad Hafeez is among six Pakistan players given the all-clear to join the squad touring England after returning a second negative test for coronavirus.

Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan and Wahab Riaz are also set to join the team in Worcestershire, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) confirmed on Tuesday.

Pakistan are due to play three Tests and three T20Is in England, but preparations for those matches were plunged into doubt after 10 players tested positive for COVID-19.

However, a PCB statement said: "Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan and Wahab Riaz have tested negative for Covid-19 for the second time in three days and, as such, are now eligible to join the Pakistan men's national cricket team in Worcestershire.

"The players were retested on Monday, 29 June, following a first negative test on 26 June.

"The PCB will now start making their travel arrangements and the departure details will be shared in due course."

Kashif Bhatti, Haris Rauf, Haider Ali and Imran Khan tested positive for a second time earlier this week.

The rest of Pakistan's travelling party arrived in Manchester on Sunday and underwent testing prior to a 14-day isolation period in Worcestershire.

 

 

 

England's "fragile" top order will be the target of Pakistan in their upcoming Test series, according to captain Azhar Ali.

A 20-man squad travelled to England on Sunday for the tour, which begins with three Tests, with 18 of Pakistan's initial 29-man group having been given the all-clear following the latest coronavirus tests.

Fast bowler Musa Khan and wicketkeeper Rohail Nazir have joined those 18 in making the trip.

Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan and Wahab Riaz were among those to test positive for COVID-19 and those who have been infected must return two negative tests before they can travel to England.

Pakistan are set to face an England side who have struggled to replace Alastair Cook since his retirement from international duty in 2018.

Excluding nightwatchman Jack Leach, England have used five different opening pairings and found consistency hard to come by.

The obdurate Rory Burns displayed promise in the Ashes, while Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and Joe Denly will be in contention to open alongside him when England face West Indies in a three-match series starting on July 8, prior to the Pakistan games.

"Their bowling attack is brilliant in their own conditions and there is no doubt about it," Azhar said prior to Pakistan's departure for England.

"Other than Jofra Archer we have faced all of them - [Stuart] Broad, [James] Anderson, [Chris] Woakes, [Ben] Stokes and even [Mark] Wood was there, but we have still won against them.

"Looking at their batting, their top order has been fragile for some time since Alastair Cook retired.

"They have tried a lot of combinations lately and might be looking a bit more settled, but they haven't been really confident with it. So there is something for us in it to look at."

Fast bowlers Naseem Shah and Shaheen Shah Afridi might be lacking in experience of English conditions, but Azhar has confidence in their ability to overcome a lack of practice on the surfaces they will encounter.

"In terms of number of games, of course England have tons of experience in their bowling," Azhar added. "But we have the skills: they [our bowlers] are young and have a lot to offer. They can give trouble to any team in the world. In a very short time, they have achieved a lot and that is a good sign.

"You can't buy experience immediately, and for that you obviously have to play more, but then we have a very experienced coaching staff with Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed.

"Their expertise and knowledge can be utilised and they will be helping them. So I believe, when this combo of experience and skill is brought together, that we can produce a great result. I am confident about this."

Pakistan will travel with an initial 20-man playing squad for the tour of England following the results from the latest round of coronavirus tests. 

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) released a statement to reveal the list of names who will be on the chartered flight to Manchester, as well as an update on the situations of those who had previously tested positive for COVID-19. 

Of the original 29-man squad, 18 received the all-clear following Thursday's checks, as well as 11 members of the support staff. 

They will be joined on the journey by fast bowler Musa Khan and wicketkeeper Rohail Nazir, who have also been tested twice in the past week. Zafar Gohar, meanwhile, will team up with the squad on their arrival in England.The left-arm spinner played a solitary one-dayer for Pakistan in 2015, though he will only be involved in pre-match preparations.

As for those not making the initial trip, they will not be able to travel until returning two successive negative results.  

Six players - Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan and Wahab Riaz – have done so once and will be tested again next week with a view to joining their team-mates.

Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Kashif Bhatti and Imran Khan, along with masseur Malang Ali, all tested positive again, however. The PCB medical team has instructed them to remain in quarantine, with their progress to be monitored. 

"I want to reassure the players and the official left behind that the PCB will provide them the best support and look after them during the quarantine period," PCB chief executive Wasim Khan said in a statement.  

"It needs to be remembered that these players were asymptomatic, which means their chances of regaining complete fitness are higher and brighter than most. As soon as these players test negative twice through the PCB testing process they will be flown to England to join the squad. 

"I am aware Mohammad Hafeez and Wahab Riaz took personal tests outside of our process prior to the second PCB testing. While their results came up negative, as per the PCB testing programme, they are deemed to have one negative test following a positive test.  

"Therefore, once they are retested and receive a second negative result under the PCB testing programme, they will be available to join the squad in England."

Pakistan are scheduled to play three Tests and a trio of Twenty20 fixtures against England.

 

Pakistan squad travelling to England: Azhar Ali (captain), Babar Azam, Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Iftikhar Ahmad, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Abbas, Musa Khan, Naseem Shah, Rohail Nazir, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan, Usman Shinwari, Yasir Shah. 

Pakistan's cricketers will arrive in England as planned on Sunday despite 10 of their players testing positive for coronavirus.

England are set to face Pakistan in three Tests and three T20 internationals across July and August but the tour was thrown into doubt over the past week as the initial 29-man touring party was struck by a raft of COVID-19 cases.

Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Shadab Khan, Fakhar Zaman, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan and Wahab Riaz all tested positive.

The ECB said in a statement that players testing positive will not be allowed to travel with the advanced group, with Hafeez's status unclear after the all-rounder tweeted a picture of a negative test and claimed he had received the all-clear.

Test captain Azhar Ali, white-ball counterpart Babar Azam and the remaining players will use Worcestershire's New Road as their training base during their mandatory 14-day isolation period before transferring to Derbyshire's County Ground.

Bilal Asif, Imran Butt, Musa Khan and Mohammad Nawaz have been named as reserves for the Pakistan squad and could make the trip subject to returning negative coronavirus tests.

England's home season has been delayed by the global pandemic but they will host West Indies at the Ageas Bowl next month in the first of three Tests.

Mohammad Hafeez says he has tested negative for coronavirus after being one of 10 players who the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) revealed to have contracted COVID-19.

On Tuesday the PCB said seven of its team members and a masseur had tested positive, with three others having been found to have the virus on Monday ahead of a scheduled tour to England.

However, on Wednesday Hafeez claimed he did not have coronavirus, tweeting a picture of a test result that showed he was negative.

The all-rounder said he and his family got the all-clear after seeking a second opinion.

England and Pakistan are due to play three Tests and three Twenty20 Internationals from the end of July until September. 

The PCB said the latest players to test positive, aside from Hafeez, were Fakhar Zaman, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan and Wahab Riaz, along with masseur Malang Ali. 

In a statement, the PCB said its medical panel was "already in contact with these players and the masseur, who have been instructed to observe strict quarantine at their homes for their and their families' wellbeing". 

It remains to be seen if Hafeez's latest result will allow him to be free of the same quarantine restrictions.

England's cricket stars have been urged to be careful about heading back to pubs and restaurants - with Ashley Giles warning they could be putting the planned schedule at risk. 

Prime minister Boris Johnson has said England will see a reopening of many drinking, eating and even entertainment establishments from July 4, and there may be a clamour to rekindle social lives. 

But with the coronavirus threat still present, there is no certainty such venues will be safe environments, even with social distancing measures in place. 

England are hosting West Indies and Pakistan in Test action in the coming months, they also play the latter in T20 cricket as well, plus have ODIs against Ireland and potentially limited-overs games against Australia to come. 

Former spin bowler Giles, now director of men's cricket at the England and Wales Cricket Board, said it was important to be aware of the possible perils of mixing socially. 

"We haven't talked about banning them, but what we'd ask them to be is sensible," Giles said. "They have been throughout the whole process. 

"They need to continue that, because if you come back into an environment and you haven't been adhering to the guidelines then you put everyone else and the series at risk." 

England will be living in bio-secure environments for large parts of their summer, but squads for each series could differ, and there may be factors that mean players have to temporarily leave camp. 

The opening matches see England face West Indies in three Tests, with the first played in Southampton before back-to-back fixtures at Old Trafford.  

"It'll be quite strange," Giles said. "We could be in a situation where we have a very secure bubble for the second and third Test matches of the series and the rest of the world is operating at a new normal, with restaurants and pubs open again. 

"Our main responsibility is to get this series on the road and keep everyone safe, especially including the West Indies team who've done so much to come here." 

With 10 Pakistan players having tested positive for coronavirus, it remains to be seen whether they and England can go ahead with their planned series, although both sides are intending to do so at present. 

A backstop option could see England invite Ireland to step into the breach. 

Giles says that is not currently being discussed, adding: "As with this situation throughout, we've had to be agile and adapt very quickly to different situations, all of us." 

When England are locked together in camp, Giles says it will be the responsibility of everyone to guard against missteps, and he is braced for mistakes to be made. 

"I think it would be down to all of us to police it. The players are aware of the seriousness of the situation," he told a news conference. 

"People are going to make mistakes. We all are. We're all going to get it wrong. 

"It will be weird. Anyone who thinks this is going to be a holiday camp is going to be seriously mistaken. 

"There could be an opportunity for some guys to play golf on a course next door. But apart from that there's two sessions of cricket a day; there's going to be a lot of work. 

"But inside, social distancing still, wearing of masks, probably spending a lot of time on your own isn't a lot of fun and I think it's a bit of a culture shock." 

Giles said he was "quietly confident" about Australia visiting later this year, albeit there was "some nervousness" on the part of their Ashes rivals. 

Seven Pakistan players and a team masseur have tested positive for coronavirus, but officials say plans to tour England remain "very much on track". 

The announcement of the positive results on Tuesday came a day after three others from Misbah-ul-Haq's squad were confirmed as having COVID-19. 

All 10 infected players have been ordered to self-isolate and will stay at home when the rest depart on a chartered flight, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said. 

England and Pakistan are due to play three Tests and three Twenty20 Internationals from the end of July until September. 

The PCB said the latest seven players to test positive were Fakhar Zaman, Imran Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan and Wahab Riaz, along with masseur Malang Ali. 

In a statement, the PCB said its medical panel was "already in contact with these players and the masseur, who have been instructed to observe strict quarantine at their homes for their and their families' wellbeing". 

None showed any symptoms before being tested, the PCB added. They must each produce two negative test results before being allowed to travel to England to join up with the squad. 

Ashley Giles, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) director of men's cricket, had said the first three positive tests were "a concern". 

Players and staff who have tested negative will gather in Lahore on Wednesday before undergoing a further round of coronavirus testing on Thursday. More tests will be conducted by the ECB once the squad arrives in England. 

PCB chief executive Wasim Khan said: "The tour to England is very much on track and the side will depart as per schedule on June 28. 

"Fortunately, all the first-choice red-ball squad, barring Mohammad Rizwan, are negative, which means they can start training and practicing immediately after they have been tested and given the all-clear when they arrive in England. 

"In the meantime, Misbah-ul-Haq is reviewing the training schedule in England and firming up plans for reserve players to be tested as a back-up."

Ashley Giles does not believe Pakistan's tour of England is in doubt despite three of the tourists' squad testing positive for coronavirus.

Fast bowler Haris Rauf, all-rounder Shadab Khan and uncapped teenage batsman Haider Ali were tested on Sunday in Rawalpindi and found to have COVID-19.

According to a statement released by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), all three have shown no symptoms and were advised to immediately enter isolation.

Another 23 players from the 29-man squad are due to receive test results on Tuesday, with Usman Shinwari and Imad Wasim having already returned negative tests and Shoaib Malik SET to join up with the squad at a later date after being given permission to spend time with his family.

Giles says the positive tests are undeniably a concern but is confident the tour, which is due to see three Tests and three Twenty20 Internationals take place from the end of July until September, will go ahead as planned.

"It is a concern – and we are most concerned about the welfare of those players who have tested positive," said Giles, who is managing director of men's cricket for England.

"At the moment, I don't think the series is in doubt. We are far enough away from the start of the Test series to be too worried and we are still hopeful the Pakistan team will be arriving in the country fairly soon.

"We are still waiting on the other test results but I think we are still far enough out even if a number of those results were positive."

Pakistan has recorded a sharp rise in COVID-19 cases, with 3,946 more confirmed on Tuesday, taking the total number to just over 185,000. Nearly 3,700 people to test positive for coronavirus have died.

"The situation in Pakistan is not great at the moment and our thoughts go out to the whole country, so clearly it's important we get the team in the country and we can get on with our series," Giles said. "Anything that puts that at risk is clearly a problem.

"All of this has uncertainty still as we know how fast-moving the situation has been around the world. We have been very careful at every step, but do we really know what's around the corner? No.

"This is such a global and far-reaching issue and is affecting everyone and there are far more important things going on than sport.

"But we are hopeful that if we can get international sport on it will be a fillip for people around the world."

Three Pakistan cricketers selected for their proposed tour of England have tested positive for coronavirus.

Fast bowler Haris Rauf, all-rounder Shadab Khan and uncapped teenage batsman Haider Ali were tested on Sunday in Rawalpindi and found to have COVID-19.

According to a statement released by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), all three have shown no symptoms and were advised to immediately enter isolation.

Rauf, Shadab and Haider are considered white-ball specialists, meaning the three T20 internationals slated for August 29, August 31 and September 2 are their target.

Imad Wasim and Usman Shinwari took part in the same screening session and will travel to Lahore to join up with their team-mates on Thursday, having returned negative results.

The PCB expects to announce the outcomes of the tests carried out on the rest of the squad and backroom staff at local centres in Karachi, Lahore and Peshawar on Monday within 24 hours.

Pakistan named a 29-man squad for the tour, which is set to begin with a three-Test series on July 30.

The travelling party is set to depart for England on Sunday, with Bilal Asif, Imran Butt, Musa Khan and Mohammad Nawaz named on a standby list.

Sarfaraz Ahmed feels he can thrive without the pressure of being captain after earning a Pakistan recall for the tour of England.

The wicketkeeper-batsman has not played for his country since he was axed as skipper last October.

Yet Sarfaraz was this week included in a 29-man squad for three Tests and as many Twenty20 Internationals against England in August and September.

And the 33-year-old, who is back-up to Mohammad Rizwan, is relishing being able to concentrate on his own game without the extra responsibility.

"Obviously it was tough to absorb the fact that I was the captain as well as a regular member and then suddenly, I am nowhere," said Sarfaraz.

"You do get upset but I couldn't really dwell on it too much, because I was fortunate that I had domestic cricket there and then came PSL. So, most of the time, I remained busy.

"Then in this free time in the last three months in quarantine, I got time to reflect and improve my fitness to be ready for any opportunity.

"When you are captain in any format, it definitely brings a lot of pressure on you and this is why it's a big responsibility. When you were playing cricket non-stop without a break, relentlessly, then these breaks really help you.

"I've been talking to Misbah [ul-Haq, the Pakistan head coach] and he was urging me to utilise this time to work smartly to improve my fitness and reflect on what I have been doing wrong.

"When you are captain you basically think differently - more about the team than yourself. Your main focus is on the team result and performances, and in all this you spent more time supporting your players.

"But now I don't have that added responsibility and I will be thinking exclusively how I can play my part as a player in any situation where I am needed.

"Overall, I realised that this seven or eight-month gap away from the national team has helped me rediscover myself as player."

Pakistan's upcoming tour of England does not come with the caveat that Joe Root's side must return the favour in future, Misbah-ul-Haq has insisted.

Despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic resulting in India pulling out of fixtures in Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, Pakistan are set to follow West Indies in touring England for three Tests and Twenty20s between August and September having named a 29-man squad on Friday.

West Indies arrived in England earlier this week ahead of Tests that will take place at bio-secure venues in Southampton and Manchester, and the Pakistan series appears likely to follow a similar format.

Even though the contests will likely be staged behind closed doors, they can still be lucrative to the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), with West Indies and Pakistan willing to tour a country still grappling with COVID-19.

That has raised suggestions that Pakistan have only decided to travel with the proviso England visit their country in future, something they have not done since the attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009.

"It is not in our minds that we are coming and keeping in view something that the ECB has to do for us in return," Pakistan head coach Misbah said.

"At the moment the PCB [Pakistan Cricket Board] is just thinking about the restart of international cricket. That is very important to us, to get the players back on the ground.

"Obviously, in a bigger picture, we are not expecting anything in return. Overall we want not just the ECB but all cricketing nations to help each other so this game can grow. It's important for the cricket fans in Pakistan and also for Pakistan cricket that countries start touring Pakistan."

The prospect of playing in empty stadiums is one few countries around the world have experience of.

However, having staged 'home' Tests in front of sparsely populated stadiums in the United Arab Emirates since the Lahore attack, Misbah believes Pakistan will be better prepared than most when cricket resumes.

"Nobody understands it better than us because we played much more cricket than any other team in the world with empty stadiums in the UAE," he said.

"Obviously in a bigger picture, if we want to resume international cricket, we have to start it from somewhere."

Misbah also said he was hoping for the best for ex-Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi after the latter revealed on Twitter that he had tested positive for coronavirus.

"My prayers are with him, all well wishes with him that he gets out of this soon," Misbah added.

“Throughout the COVID situation he was helping the poor, doing a very good job. I think he was doing a lot of work in the area of Balochistan and the northern areas just to help the people."

Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi has tested positive for coronavirus.

Afridi, who still plays Twenty20 cricket at the age of 40, revealed he has been feeling unwell since Thursday.

The all-rounder has since tested positive for COVID-19 and requested prayers for his speed recovery.

He tweeted on Saturday: "I've been feeling unwell since Thursday; my body had been aching badly.

"I've been tested and unfortunately I'm covid positive. Need prayers for a speedy recovery, InshaAllah #COVID19 #pandemic #hopenotout #staysafe #stayhome."

Afridi has been helping with coronavirus relief efforts in his homeland, where 2,551 have died after contracting the virus.

Pakistan have confirmed that Haris Sohail will not travel for the tour to England because of coronavirus fears.

The middle-order batsman withdrew from selection for the three-match Test and Twenty20 series, with fixtures set to take place behind closed doors across August and September.

While Sohail's absence was made public on Thursday, it was only in naming the squad on Friday that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) offered a full explanation, having previously cited "family reasons".

A back injury has ruled out Hasan Ali, while Mohammad Amir is skipping the tour to be at the birth of his second child.

"Fast bowlers Hasan Ali and Mohammad Amir, and middle-order batsman Haris were not available for selection," read a statement from the PCB.

"Hasan is suffering from a back injury, Amir withdrew so that he can be at the birth of his second child in August, while Haris took the option of pulling out of the tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic."

Pakistan Under-19 batsman Haider Ali has earned a call-up, with Kashif Bhatti the other uncapped player included.

Chief selector and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said: "The selectors have picked a squad which gives us the best chance of success in England.

"It was a challenging process as the players have not played for an extended period of time, but nevertheless, with the month that we will have in England and the intense training we will undergo, we are confident we will get the players up to the mark to be ready for the three Tests."

Pakistan squad:

Squad: Abid Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Haider Ali, Iftikhar Ahmad, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Imran Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Hasnain, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sohail Khan, Usman Shinwari, Wahab Riaz, Imad Wasim, Kashif Bhatti, Shadab Khan and Yasir Shah.

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