Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur says fast bowler Sohail Khan’s ability has never been in doubt and he is comfortable with the XI at his disposal for the Boxing Day Test.
After missing the first match of the Commonwealth Bank Test series against Australia in Brisbane, Sohail was recalled to Pakistan side for the second Test at the MCG.
Even though Sohail did not bowl on first of the three training days ahead of the second Test, he was seen putting hard yards to improve and prove his fitness during the next two days.
After a long bowling session in the Melbourne heat on Saturday, he ran four laps of the MCG.
On eve of the match the team physiotherapist Shane Hayes spent an additional time with him working on his muscles during the net sessions.
“I am very satisfied with the way Sohail Khan has trained. He has practiced and trained beautifully,” Arthur told reporters after the first day’s play.
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“His ability has never been in doubt. He swings the ball and bowls at a good pace. He is very fine bowler.
“He is fantastic so I am comfortable that he has come back and he is ready to go.
“He has lost 7-8 kilograms and he is the first guy in the gym at 6 in the morning.
“He does his training, he bowls 2-3 spells in the nets every day.
“He has been excellent and I sort of doff my cap to him because he has been outstanding and almost been a model professional for us over the last month or so.”
Arthur was critical on Sohail during the first Test at the Gabba, questioning the paceman’s consistency.
"His first spell's very good, his second spell is OK, his third spell is tough and then you just don't get anything more. It puts a lot of pressure on other units,” Arthur told ABC Grandstand earlier this month.
Arthur said concerns surrounding Sohail’s fitness were genuine but he praised the 32-year-old, who has 24 wickets to his name from eight Tests.
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“What I said in the interview was a fact that we have concerns around him coming back, but there are so many positive about him,” he said.
“There are so many positives around what Sohail does.
“He swings the ball at a good pace and he is a real trier.
“So I am comfortable that he has done everything we wanted him to do and the proof of the pudding is going to be in how he performs.”
Pakistan opted for a trio of left-arm fast bowlers in Brisbane, leaving out Sohail and Imran Khan, the only right-arm pacemen in the squad.
But Rahat Ali’s poor performance with the ball at the Gabba left the door open for Imran or Sohail to be recalled.
Sohail won the vote on the Monday morning due to his performances in Tests this year. He claimed back-to-back five-fors in the last two Tests against England at Edgbaston and the Oval and also took four wickets in the final Test against New Zealand in Hamilton.
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He can bowl the new ball better than Imran and, despite those concerns around his fitness, bowled 70 overs in the two Tests against New Zealand – more than any other Pakistan bowler.
In addition to that he has also scored at an average of 20.75 in 2016 and is a superior batsman to Imran and Rahat.
“Sohail is a right-armer. On this wicket you don’t want to give too many areas for Nathan Lyon to bowl so we wanted to keep one right-armer to attack,” Arthur said.
“But also it just gives us some balance. We comfortable he’ll do the goods.”
Sohail has sweet memories of Australia. He made a comeback to the Pakistan side after a three-year absence in the 2015 World Cup and grabbed five wickets against India in Adelaide in his first match in Australia.
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Now he’s been selected to play his first Test in Australia.
Pakistan would be expecting a similar performance from him in the next few days as they seek to keep the three-Test series alive.
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