Pakistan Cricket Board on Monday announced their 18-member squad for the three-match Test series against England in December, spinner Abrar Ahmed and fast bowler Mohammad Ali received maiden Test call-ups.
For the first time since 2005, England are set to tour Pakistan for a Test series. Rawalpindi will host the first Test before the action moves to Karachi and Multan for the subsequent games.
Amongst the omissions, notable names include Fawad Alam, Hasan Ali, Yasir Shah and Shaheen Afridi. Afridi recently underwent surgery on his appendix as the star pacer continues his recovery from his ongoing knee injury.
The series will be crucial for Pakistan to keep their hopes of making the World Test Championship Final alive. Babar Azam’s men are currently placed fifth in the standings with a point percentage of 51.85.
Twenty-four-year-old Abrar is in red-hot form in the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. Before the start of the last round on Sunday (20 November), Abrar had claimed 43 wickets at an average of 21.95. He has recorded five five-wicket hauls in six matches and has played an integral role in turning his side into serious contenders to secure a berth in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final.
Central Punjab’s Mohammad Ali has been the best fast bowler in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy in the last two editions, taking 56 wickets. His 24 wickets, including two five wicket hauls, at 25.54 in six matches are the most for any fast bowler this first-class season. His 32 wickets at 22.78 in eight matches in 2021-22 were also the most for a fast bowler.
Uncapped Mohammad Wasim Jnr and Zahid Mehmood, who were part of the Test side for the three Tests against Australia earlier in the year, are the other two players to return to the side.
There are four changes in the squad from Pakistan’s last Test assignment, which was in Sri Lanka that resulted in the two-Test series ending 1-1. The four players who are not part of the side are Shaheen Shah Afridi, Hasan Ali, Fawad Alam and Yasir Shah.
Shaheen was unavailable for selection after he underwent appendicitis surgery on Sunday, which will require three-four weeks’ rest following which he will resume his two-week rehabilitation on his right knee.
Fawad managed 33 runs in four innings of three Tests against Australia earlier this year, while he scored 25 runs in his only Test in Sri Lanka. Hasan Ali took five wickets in his last four Tests against Australia and Sri Lanka, while Yasir Shah bagged nine wickets in Sri Lanka but has managed only 14 wickets in seven Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches to date.
Speaking about the squad for the series, Pakistan Men’s chief selector Mohammad Wasim said in a official statement release by PCB, “I want to congratulate all the players who have been selected for the historic Test series against England. We have selected this 18-man squad keeping in mind the form of the players, the conditions and the opposition. This series has provided opportunities to Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Ali, Mohammad Wasim Jnr and Zahid Mehmood. Abrar has been on the radar since his debut first-class season in 2020-21. He is in outstanding form this season, so it makes sense to make him available to Babar Azam so he can use the confidence and talent of this youngster in the upcoming series.”
“Zahid is another bowler who has been in the plans. He has shown improvement over the years and has been part of successive squads. We have boosted our fast bowling stocks with the best available talent. There is no doubt about the skills of Mohammad Wasim Jnr. He moves the new and old ball laterally at high pace, which is a huge plus for any side. Mohammad Ali has shown great patience and control, and his numbers speak for his consistency. He has been our best fast bowler in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with 56 wickets at an average of 24 over the last two seasons,” he added.
“I am confident that this team will ensure that the upcoming Test series against England will end in the same manner as it did when they last toured Pakistan in 2005,” said Mohammad Wasim.
The three Tests are part of the ICC World Test Championship and are scheduled to be played in Rawalpindi (December 1-5), Multan (December 9-13) and Karachi December 17-21).
Each of the nine teams play six series – three at home and three away – in 2021-23 cycle. The upcoming series is Pakistan’s fifth – their last series will be the two Tests against New Zealand in December 2022 and January 2023. These three Tests will be England’s final appearance in the second edition of the World Test Championship. (ANI)