Pakistan launch preparation for SA Test with extensive training session

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The new-look Pakistan cricket squad began its preparations for next week’s first Test against South Africa with an extensive practice session here at the National Stadium on Thursday.

Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq, batting coach Younis Khan and bowling coach Waqar Younis were joined by ex-Pakistan greats Mohammad Yousuf, Saqlain Mushtaq and ex-New Zealand player Grant Bradburn — the coaches at the National High Performance Centre in Lahore — during the four-hour session.

Both Yousuf and Saqlain along with Bradburn, who has been here to observe the domestic matches, are in the city to watch the last phase of the ongoing Pakistan Cup one-day competition. They will be in attendance during the training sessions over the next couple of days.

In what will be Pakistan’s first series after the national side were outplayed 2-0 in New Zealand earlier this month, the pressure is on Misbah and Waqar to turn around the team’s fortunes after both received reprieve following their meeting last week in Lahore with PCB’s Cricket Committee, headed by Saleem Yousuf.

But while both Misbah and Waqar have survived — at least for the South Africa series — the incoming chief selector, Mohammad Wasim, made a drastic overhauling of the squad that went to New Zealand by indicting as many as nine uncapped players in the preliminary 20-man squad for the series against Proteas.

Following a spate of poor performances in the last two tours — to England and New Zealand — Shan Masood, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah — have all been dropped. The new faces in the Test squad, which is expected to be cut to 16 at the weekend, are Imran Butt, Saud Shakeel, Kamran Ghulam, Agha Salman, Abdullah Shafiq, Sajid Khan, Nauman Ali, Tabish Khan and Haris Rauf.