By: Muhammad Saad Abbasi
LAHORE: Mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed and fast bowler Mohammad Ali have been rewarded for their strong first-class performances with maiden Test call-ups as Pakistan announced an 18-player squad for December’s three ICC World Test Championship matches against England.
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.
Pakistan squad for England Tests: Babar Azam (c) (Central Punjab), Mohammad Rizwan (vc & wk) (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Abdullah Shafique (Central Punjab), Abrar Ahmed (Sindh), Azhar Ali (Central Punjab), Faheem Ashraf (Central Punjab), Haris Rauf (Northern), Imam-ul-Haq (Balochistan), Mohammad Ali (Central Punjab), Mohammad Nawaz (Northern), Mohammad Wasim Jnr (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Naseem Shah (Southern Punjab), Nauman Ali (Northern), Salman Ali Agha (Southern Punjab), Sarfaraz Ahmed (Sindh), Saud Shakeel (Sindh), Shan Masood (Balochistan) and Zahid Mehmood (Sindh)
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.
Muhammad Wasim: “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 the 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.
“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.”
The three Tests are part of the ICC World Test Championship and are scheduled to be played in Rawalpindi (1-5 December), Multan (9-13 December) and Karachi (17-21 December).
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.