Round-up: How are Pakistan’s stars faring in the 2023 County Championship so far?
Five Pakistan players are currently toiling away in the early County Championship season. Here’s a rundown of how they’ve fared so far.
Not all of those signed by counties over the off season have featured in the competition so far. Shan Masood is on international duty against New Zealand with Adam Lyth captaining Yorkshire in his absence, while Shaheen Shah Afridi and Shadab Khan have signed T20 Blast-only contracts with Nottinghamshire and Sussex respectively.
Haider Ali – Derbyshire
Derbyshire signed the 22-year-old Haider for the entirety of the 2023 county season, subject to his availability between international commitments. While he made his international debut against England in 2020, Haider had only played 11 first-class matches before joining the Derbyshire camp. But in those matches he had scored three centuries, a prospect too good to miss out on. In the first match of the season, against Worcestershire, he reached fifty for the eighth time in 20 first-class innings and put on an 134-run opening stand with Billy Godleman.
Derbyshire still lost the match by eight wickets, and since then, Haider has yet to reach double figures again. He scored seven in a rain-affected draw against Leicestershire, while Matthew Potts of Durham bowled him for a two-ball duck. He lasted three balls in the second innings on the same day of that game, picking up a solitary run before falling to Potts once more.
Haider has been out bowled or leg-before in each of his five innings. Yet to win a match, Derbyshire sit at the bottom of the Division Two standings.
Mohammad Abbas – Hampshire
Even by his own impossibly high standards in England, Mohammad Abbas has had a ridiculous start to the 2023 County Championship. He has taken 21 wickets in Hampshire’s three matches so far, with two six-fors, and his average sits at a miserly 13.71 – complementing the statistic that he is yet to bowl a wide in 4,721 balls he has bowled for Hampshire. He is by far and away the best bowler in the competition.
His second six-for came against Surrey – Division One title favourites – and included Ollie Pope among his victims in an ultimately losing effort for Hampshire. Characteristically, having been required to bat three times so far this season, he has yet to get on the scoreboard. He picked up a pair against Surrey but defiantly blocked out eight balls to finish unbeaten on nought a week earlier against Nottinghamshire.
Hassan Ali – Warwickshire
A mixed start for Hassan. His first outing brought three wickets, but he was Warwickshire’s most expensive bowler in Somerset’s second innings, conceding 52 off 10 overs. But he played a crucial part in Warwickshire’s only victory of the season so far, picking up five wickets against Kent. His victims on that occasion included Joe Denly and Daniel Bell-Drummond. He also picked up the wicket of Ollie Pope against Surrey, although benefitting from a questionable lbw call.
Azhar Ali – Worcestershire
Azhar was instrumental for Worcestershire in their win against Derbyshire in the first round. He put on an 139-run stand with Jake Libby for the second wicket in the final innings, reaching a half-century before Zak Chappell pinned him lbw. Potts ended Azhar’s first innings for 29 at Chester-le-Street before he became one of Matt Kuhnemann’s five victims in the second. Against Gloucestershire most recently, he failed to get out of double figures and picked up a four-ball duck in the first innings.
Zafar Gohar – Gloucestershire
Of his compatriots, Gohar has probably had the toughest start to the 2023 season. He has twice conceded over 100 in an innings and currently averages 71.5. Two of Gloucestershire’s three matches so far have been heavily affected by rain, whole their most recent clash against Sussex was their third consecutive draw.
To put his slow start into context Gohar took 47 wickets for Gloucestershire last season at 28.40 and was their leading wicket-taker. It’s a tough gig for spinners in April.
Saud Shakeel – Yorkshire
Shakeel was signed for Yorkshire’s first four games in the Division Two competition, although he has only featured in one of the three games they have played so far. On debut against Sussex, he was bowled for three by Henry Crocombe before making six in the second innings. Shakeel was signed to bolster Yorkshire’s overseas contingent after Masood was called up to international duty and Neil Wagner was ruled-out of his stint for the county with a hamstring injury. However, Shakeel’s arrival to England was delayed by visa issues.