Left-arm fast bowler Shaheen Afridi has made a return to Pakistan’s Test squad for the two-match away series against Sri Lanka starting next month, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said on Saturday.
The PCB also said uncapped batter Mohammad Huraira and all-rounder Aamir Jamal have received their maiden Test call-ups and are part of the 16-member squad for what is going to be Pakistan’s first assignment in the third cycle of the ICC World Test Championship, while announcing the appointment of Morne Morkel as the side’s bowling coach on a six-month contract.
Shaheen, who last featured in the longest format in July 2022 when he suffered a knee injury in a Test against Sri Lanka, is one wicket away from reaching a century of Test wickets and no Pakistan bowler has picked up more wickets than him since he made his debut in December 2018.
The 23-year old pacer averages 24.86 and has an economy of 3.04, and last played Test cricket in July 2022, before sustaining a knee injury, a recurrence of which happened in Men’s T20 World Cup final last year.
“I am very excited to be returning to the Pakistan Test side after a year. I dearly missed Test cricket and it was tough for me to be away from this format. After missing our entire home season because of the injury I suffered in Sri Lanka, I am eager to make an impactful comeback in the same country and complete a century of wickets in Test cricket.
I want to thank my fans who have provided me support in tough times and I am ready for the challenges ahead,” said Shaheen on his return to the Test team.
“We have devised this squad with the conditions and challenges that our players will encounter in Sri Lanka. This is our first series of the third round of the ICC World Test Championship and this squad is fully capable of providing us a solid start.
The conditions in Sri Lanka largely favour finger spinners — something that we have seen over the years and during Pakistan’s last visit to the island – so we have three such bowlers to go with the mystery spin of Abrar Ahmed,” said chief selector Haroon Rashid.
The 21-year old Huraira has played 24 first-class, 10 List A and six T20s and has earned the spot after being the leading run-scorer in the last two iterations of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. In the 2022-23 edition, Huraira was the only batter to breach the 1000-run mark, playing an integral role in helping Northern to clinch their maiden title.
In 11 matches of that season, Huraira smashed four centuries and two half-centuries on his way to 1,024 runs at an average of 73.14. He continued his first-class form on the tour of Zimbabwe last month scoring 178 and 64 against Zimbabwe A at Kwekwe and Mutare and holds the record for being the second youngest batter to score a first-class triple-century in Pakistan, after legendary Javed Miandad.
On the other hand, Aamir launched into limelight after defending 15 runs in the last over against England’s Moeen Ali on his T20I debut in September last year. His immaculate death bowling helped Pakistan to a thrilling six-run win over England in the fifth T20I of the seven-match series.
The 27-year old topped the wicket-takers chart for the fast bowlers in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2022-23, taking 31 scalps at 29.71 while picking two five-wicket hauls. He was the leading wicket-taker in the recent six-match One-Day series between Zimbabwe and Pakistan Shaheens with 16 dismissals at an average of 21.
“At the same time, we cannot overlook the need for fast bowlers and, as such, we have included four pacers so the captain and team management have ample resources on the tour. We boast a strong batting line-up, which I am confident will do well in the two matches.
The players who have missed out on the selection should not get bogged down as they firmly remain part of our plans. We have an exciting and challenging season ahead of us and they should make the most of the opportunities in domestic cricket and Shaheens’ tours to keep themselves ready,” added Rashid.
Pakistan will assemble in Karachi on July 3 for a camp ahead of their departure for Sri Lanka on July 9. The itinerary of the tour will be announced by Sri Lanka Cricket in due course. Pakistan and Sri Lanka last played a Test series in July 2022 that was drawn 1-1.
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (vc & wk), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Huraira, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Noman Ali, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Afridi and Shan Masood.
Press Release, Source: IANS