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Pakistan County Championship round-up: Shan Masood piles on the runs, Hasan Ali’s nine-for routs Gloucestershire

The third round of the 2022 County Championship concluded on Sunday, with another strong showing from the Pakistan representatives. Here we take a look at how they got on.

A curious season so far for Hampshire – innings win, innings loss, and now another innings win, with Kent powerless to resist a middle-order mashing at the hands of James Vince, Liam Dawson and Ben Brown. And either side of that towering total of 652 for 6 declared, Mohammad Abbas simply did the needful, picking off four wickets in the match in a support role to Keith Barker’s first-innings six-for and Kyle Abbott’s match-sealing 5 for 29. Without yet hitting the heights of previous Hampshire campaigns, Abbas has quietly picked off ten wickets at 22.60 in three matches, including a wicketless display at The Oval. His guileful, edge-threatening medium-pace will doubtless continue to bring the slips into play for some time yet.
A joyous introduction to Old Trafford for Hasan Ali, who is already well on his way to feeling as at home in his northern surroundings as Lancashire’s most famous Pakistan import, Wasim Akram. Hasan’s exuberant displays with the ball were matched by his habitual power-surge celebrations – on nine separate occasions in this match, and 14 in two outings to date – as Gloucestershire were overwhelmed by one of the most eye-catching county attacks of recent vintage. His match haul of 9 for 96 comfortably outshone the returning James Anderson, albeit Anderson’s second-innings display of 2 for 25 in 25 overs was a hint of great hauls to come, as Saqib Mahmood and Matt Parkinson completed a formidable support act. With pace and swing on a hostile full length, Hasan’s finest moment was the fierce stump-smashing yorker that dispatched James Bracey on the third evening to end any realistic hopes of a Gloucestershire rearguard.
Haris Rauf
Match figures of 3 for 128 in 44 overs do scant justice to Haris Rauf‘s spirited attempts to carry Yorkshire’s ill-balanced attack against Northants. Shorn of the services of the newly-capped England quick Matt Fisher, they were ultimately thwarted on one of the flattest fourth-day decks that Wantage Road has produced in recent times, but not before Rauf had produced two bona fide snorters in the space of three balls in the day’s opening exchanges – a pair of round-the-wicket splice rattlers to see off Ricardo Vasconcelos and Emilio Gay, and prise open an innings that the young allrounder Matthew Revis did his best to clean out. But with Northants five-down and vulnerable come the second new ball, Rauf disappointed himself with his failure to finish the job. In particular, the Australian Matthew Kelly, coming in at No.8, stood firm against a reprisal of Rauf’s short-ball approach, twice pulling him for six over square leg, and Rauf’s work was concluded with a frustrated kick of the turf.
Zafar Gohar
There wasn’t much quarter given by Lancashire while Josh Bohannon was grinding out his career-best 231, least of all while he and Dane Vilas were adding 203 for the fourth wicket across the second evening and third morning. But in emerging from the ordeal with 4 for 135 across 65 tidily compiled overs, Zafar Gohar‘s left-arm spin showed once more the dependability in adversity that could yet be translated into a matchwinning capability when conditions are more in Gloucestershire’s favour. Each of his scalps was hard-earned and well prised out, not least Luke Wells, trapped on the knee-roll for 59 by one that turned back in. Gohar also popped up with a lively piece of fielding at square leg to run out George Balderson early in Lancashire’s innings, before the traffic had turned one-way.
Never mind the legendary landmark of 1000 runs before the end of May; Shan Masood is in the mood to have a dart before the end of April. He’s got 611 to his name in four innings so far, with last week’s 239 against Sussex blending seamlessly into this week’s 219 against Leicestershire – an innings best summed up by a straight drive for four off Beuran Hendricks that left Twitter weak at the knees. Once again, he will encounter stiffer bowling attacks than was on show at Grace Road, but as he showed on Pakistan’s tour of England in 2020, with a graceful 156 in the first Test at Old Trafford, the purity of his technique means he is well equipped for a return to the national set-up.
Mohammad Rizwan began his week with a notable accolade, after being announced as Wisden’s Leading Twenty20 Player in the World. Unfortunately for Sussex, he ended it with a (hopefully) temporary blip to his first-class form, making scores of 0 and 4 in a crushing innings defeat against Worcestershire at New Road. It was a disappointment, too, for those onlookers yearning for a display of Indo-Pak harmony out in the middle – we did at least get a glimpse of Rizwan and Cheteshwar Pujara batting together for the first time this season… but only for one ball, as Rizwan nicked his first delivery from Joe Leach to the keeper. An inducker from Ed Barnard saw him off second time around. But he did at least pick up a smart diving catch off Ben Cox for one of his two dismissals in the match.
A truly box-office debut for Shaheen Shah Afridi – who is quite possibly the most captivating signing of the summer across all competitions (not least the Hundred). His eagerly anticipated bow for Middlesex came within a leg-side snick of a first-day hat-trick against Glamorgan at Cardiff, and though his returns diminished thereafter, his impact did not. His four wickets in the match included Marnus Labuschagne, the ICC’s No.1-ranked Test batter, in both innings (as well as Sam Northeast for a first-baller) as Glamorgan’s batting twice folded in his absence for scores of 122 and 132. Afridi had fun with the bat too, biffing a quick 29 from 39 balls in Middlesex’s 336, before Labuschagne extracted a measure of revenge by having him caught in the covers.
Azhar Ali
It’s been a slow start to the campaign for Azhar Ali, with this week’s innings of 20 taking his tally to 23 from three innings. However, Worcestershire hardly struggled in the absence of his big runs – thanks to Brett D’Oliveira’s unbeaten 169, they needed to bat just the once to trounce Sussex by an innings.

And the non-combatants …

Naseem Shah has been ruled out of action at least until the start of the T20 Blast next month after suffering a shoulder injury, but in his absence, Gloucestershire have pulled off something of a coup, with the news that Mohammad Amir will be coming out of his red-ball retirement as a short-term replacement. He linked up with the squad in Manchester this week, and is in line to make his return to first-class cricket against Surrey on Thursday.

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