Junaid out of NZ tour with stress fracture

KARACHI –  Fast bowler Junaid Khan has been ruled out for four weeks due to a stress fracture of the foot, a setback for the Pakistan team ahead of their limited-overs tour to New Zealand.

Pakistan opener Azhar Ali and middle-order batsman Mohammad Hafeez have both passed their fitness tests and are set to represent the national side in the upcoming New Zealand tour.

Junaid fractured his right foot during the Bangladesh Premier League in November. He reportedly hit a ball onto his foot while playing for Khulna Titans in the BPL, and the latest assessment confirmed an unhealed stress fracture, for which the Pakistan Cricket Board’s medical panel – headed by Dr Sohail Saleem – advised the 27-year-old bowler another four weeks’ rest.

Pakistan’s five-ODI series in New Zealand begins on January 6, with the three T20Is set to be played between January 22 and 28. The Pakistan selectors are expected to announce a squad later this week, with the team’s departure scheduled for December 26. Junaid is the second injury concern for selectors after Usman Shinwari, another left-arm quick, was sidelined by a stress fracture of the back last month.

The injuries could boost the comeback prospects of fast bowlers Mohammad Irfan and Sohail Khan. Irfan was barred from all forms of cricket for a year – with six months suspended – in March, after failing to report details of two approaches to corrupt the game. He returned to competitive cricket in September, but has not played international cricket since September 2016.

The injury means Junaid’s likely T20 comeback is set to be delayed. The bowler, who last played a T20I in 2014 and a Test in 2015, has struggled with injury in the past. In 2014, he missed matches on the tour of New Zealand due to a thigh injury and was later ruled out of the 2015 World Cup, before making a return again later that year on the tour of Bangladesh. He made a comeback to the ODI side on the tour of Australia in January this year, replacing Irfan who returned due to the death of his mother. Junaid has since gone on to play 14 of the side’s 18 ODIs in 2017, sharing the new ball with Mohammad Amir.

Azhar and Hafeez are also scheduled to play in the SNGPL side in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy (QAT) five-day final scheduled to be played in Karachi starting Thursday.

Azhar, who was an integral part of his team’s 2017 Champions Trophy triumph, had picked up a knee injury during a series against Sri Lanka.

But the 32-year-old, having fully recovered from the knock, recently requested a fitness test so he could play in the QAT final and also be reincorporated into the national fold ahead of the upcoming New Zealand tour.

Hafeez, meanwhile, took a break following the Sri Lanka home series and spent time in England to rectify his faulty bowling action which had landed him a fresh one-year ban bowling ban from the International Cricket Council in November.

The duo has, however, proven their fitness, following which they were given the green signal to join their departmental side, which will take on Wapda in the five-day final in Karachi.

If all goes according to plan, Azhar should make the One Day International squad for the tour down under, whereas Hafeez is expected to be included in the Twenty20 International side, as well as the ODI squad.

 

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