Umar Gul’s return to the One-Day International side was the major talking point ahead of Pakistan’s two-match series against Ireland, beginning on Thursday (August 18) in Malahide.
Umar returns to the side 16 months after he last played an ODI, his experience of English conditions gaining him a place in the squad ahead of the towering Mohammad Irfan.
Pakistan is leaning towards experience for this series as there is a lot hinging on it. It is currently ranked ninth in the ICC ODI rankings, languishing on 87 points, seven behind eighth-ranked West Indies. With the four bottom-placed teams in the 12-team rankings needing to play in the ICC World Cup Qualifier in 2018 alongside six teams from the ICC World Cricket League Championship and the ICC World Cricket League, Pakistan will hope to jump above West Indies and secure automatic qualification for the tournament proper in 2019.
However, to do that, it needs a victory in every match it plays against Ireland and England, who it will clash against in a five-match series following the series against Ireland.
Pakistan heads in after securing a thrilling 2-2 draw in the Tests against England, but only seven of the players who took part in that series have been retained in the 15-man squad for the ODIs, captained by Azhar Ali. Sami Aslam, Mohammad Hafeez and Azhar are the specialist batsmen who kept their places, along with Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz, the pacemen, and Yasir Shah, the leg-spinner, and Sarfraz Ahmed, the wicketkeeper.
Pakistan has also included Hasan Ali, the uncapped 22-year-old seamer who impressed in England in the recently completed Pakistan A tour, along with Mohammad Nawaz, the slow left-arm all-rounder who has played two T20Is.
Ireland, meanwhile, has reposed faith in Craig Young after deciding not to name a replacement for the injured Boyd Rankin. Rankin, who has also played for England, has been ruled out for the remainder of the season – including the ODIs against South Africa and Australia – after fracturing his left leg during training for Warwickshire.
Young is returning from an elbow surgery, but Ireland can also call upon the services of Barry McCarthy, who impressed in the series against Sri Lanka.
In their most recent clash, Pakistan beat Ireland by seven wickets in the ICC World Cup 2015 game in Adelaide, when both William Porterfield and Sarfraz Ahmed scored centuries. The more famous clash between the sides came in the 2007 World Cup, when Ireland knocked out Pakistan at Sabina Park in Kingston, winning by three wickets.
Given that its hopes of automatic qualification for the 2019 event depend heavily on the results in the next few weeks, Pakistan cannot afford a repeat of that.
Ireland: William Porterfield (capt), John Anderson, Peter Chase, Ed Joyce, Tim Murtagh, Andy McBrine, Barry McCarthy, Kevin O'Brien, Niall O'Brien, Stuart Poynter, Paul Stirling, Gary Wilson, Craig Young.
Pakistan: Azhar Ali (capt), Sharjeel Khan, Sami Aslam, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Nawaz.