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Pakistan's World Cup hopes hit by second bowling suspension

DUBAI: All-rounder Mohammad Hafeez was suspended for an illegal bowling action the International Cricket Council said Sunday, becoming the second Pakistan player after Saeed Ajmal to be punished for the same offence in the past three months.

The 34-year-old — who has been cleared twice before over the same claims — had his action reported during the first Test against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi last month.

The suspension is a further blow for Pakistan before next year’s World Cup as they are already reeling from leading off-spinner Ajmal’s suspension in September.

Hafeez, who also opens the batting, gives balance to the one-day international side having taken 122 wickets in 149 matches.

“Hafeez is a valuable player for us,” said Moin Khan, manager of the team and chief selector.

“It’s a setback before the World Cup and can affect our preparations for the World Cup.

“But the selection committee has no doubts over his ability as batsman alone and he will be playing on Monday as batsman.”

The analysis revealed that all his deliveries exceeded the 15 degrees level of tolerance permitted under the regulations, the ICC said.

“The ICC confirmed that an independent analysis has found the bowling action of Pakistan’s Hafeez to be illegal and, as such, the off-spinner has been suspended from bowling in international cricket with immediate effect,” the ICC said.

Hafeez can apply for a reassessment after he has modified his bowling action in accordance with the rules, the ICC said.

The analysis was performed on  November 24 by the ICC’s accredited team of human movement specialists using the National Cricket Performance Centre in Loughborough, England.

He can’t bowl in the five-match one day series against New Zealand starting in Dubai on Monday.

Hafeez will have to undergo remedial work and becomes the sixth bowler suspended under a crackdown by the ICC launched in June this year.

Besides Ajmal, Sri Lanka’s Sachitra Senanayake, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson, Zimbabwe’s Prosper Utseya and Bangladesh’s Sohag Gazi have also been suspended.

Only Bangladeshi pace bowler Al-Amin Hossain was reported by umpires and then cleared on bio-mechanical analysis.

Zimbabwe’s Malcolm Waller and the United Arab Emirates’ Salman Farooq and Mohammad Shahzad are others who have been recently reported for suspect actions.

Under the ICC rules, bowlers are permitted to straighten their bowling arm by no more than 15 degrees during delivery.

Hafeez had expressed his surprise over his bowling action being questioned.

“I have been bowling with the same action for 11 years and I am surprised how it has become suspect,” Hafeez said last month.

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq speaking ahead of the decision said losing Hafeez as a bowling option would be a blow as they focus on winning only their second World Cup title — they won the 1992 edition — being co-hosted by Australia and New Zealand in February and March next year.

“It will be tough if we don’t have Hafeez as a bowler,” said Misbah.

Hafeez’s action was also reported in 2005, but cleared on assessment, and earlier this year in a domestic T20 match in India. – AFP

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