Dean Jones backs Ajmal for Pakistan return
Pakistan's out of favour off-spinner once again knocked on the doors of the selectors with an impressive bowling display for his Pakistan Super League (PSL) side Islamabad United against a star-studded Peshawar Zalmi.
A capacity crowd at the Dubai Sports City stadium witnessed the Islamabad-Peshawar match with most of the spectators quite evidently present to support the Zalmis, which is lead by Pakistan's T20 captain Shahid Afridi.
Though the Zalmis won the match, Ajmal was at his best when he was called in by United captain Misbah-ul-Haq. And Islamabad's Australian coach, Dean Jones, couldn't agree more. "He was the big plus for us today and also for Pakistan cricket. That's what the PSL is all about. I thought his experience was the key, he knew where to bowl, at what pace, what type of delivery. He really was great," Jones said in an interview with Khaleej Times.
The first delivery bowled by the 38-year-old took a thick edge off David Malan's bat and raced to the third- man boundary. The remaining five balls were dots as Ajmal beat the southpaw from England with his nagging off-stump line and the perfect length.
The off-spinner gave away just one run in his second over, completely choking Tamim Iqbal, the seasoned Bangladesh international. Ajmal returned figures of 4-19-1 but his impact on the first innings was huge as Islamabad restricted a line up of Afridi, Darren Sammy and Kamran Akmal for just 145.
Jones was all praise for the off-spinner, who lost his place in the Pakistan side after his action was declared illegal by the International Cricket Council (ICC) following bio-mechanic tests in 2014. Although Ajmal corrected his action and continued to play domestic cricket and the English county circuit, he found little favour with the Pakistan selectors. "He was terrific today especially considering what happened to him over the last year. So to come back and show his class was fantastic," Jones said. Jones was all-praise for young bowling prospect Rumman Raees as well.
Rumman, who hails from Karachi, was picked up during the PSL draft by the Islamabad franchise in the emerging players' category and he was United's most economical bowler against Peshawar Zalmi. The left-armer was spot-on with his variations and seething yorkers. "Rumman Raees, I thought, was really good. He showed lot of composure under pressure. I think he is one for the future as far as Pakistan cricket is concerned," said the Islamabad coach.
Jones was upbeat about United's PSL prospects despite his team's defeats against Quetta and Peshawar. "It's not a good start obviously. But we have to take one game at a time," he said.