Saad Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Usman Salahuddin, Faheem Ashraf and Imam-ul-Haq have been picked in Pakistan’s 16-man Test squad for the tours of Ireland and England on Sunday (April 15).
Saad, the 24-year-old who plays for United Bank Limited, compiled 957 runs in the 2017-18 Quaid-Azam Trophy, topping the batting charts. His highest individual score of 232 was notched up against Pakistan Television.
Salahuddin, who has played 99 first-class matches, also made an impact by composing 417 runs at an average of 37.9 during the last season. Last year, he was picked for the tour of West Indies and the home Test series in UAE against Sri Lanka, but couldn’t make it to the playing XI.
Fakhar, who has already played 13 ODIs and 15 T20Is, made an impression in the 2017 Champions Trophy, compiling a blistering hundred in the final against India. The left-handed batsman had amassed 663 runs at 51, including an innings of 170 during the 2016-17 first-class competition. He played just two first-class games last season.
Faheem, the all-rounder, has already played eight ODIs, picking up seven scalps and aggregating 78 runs. In his first-class career, the 24-year-old has bagged 105 scalps and accrued 1299 runs. Imam, who made his ODI debut last year against Sri Lanka, has also found a place in the touring party. The left-handed batsman has 1792 runs to his name in first-class cricket.
With Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan walking into retirement life, Azhar Ali, Sarfraz Ahmed, Babar Azam and Asad Shafiq will be expected to do the bulk of the scoring. Azhar was in fine form last year, compiling 504 Test runs at an average of 42.
During Pakistan’s tour of Australia in 2016-17, the seasoned batsman also topped the batting charts for the side, ending up with 406 runs at an impressive average of 81.20. Azhar, though, struggled to make his presence felt in the four Quaid-E-Azam trophy games last season, finishing with an average of just 29.28. Sami Aslam, who averaged over 55 during Pakistan’s last tour to England, will also be expected to make an impact.
Meanwhile, Wahab Riaz, the fast bowler, has been left out of the squad. Incidentally, the veteran fast bowler was criticised by the head coach Micky Arthur during a training camp. The left-arm quick has bagged 40 Test scalps at an average of nearly 33 since January 2016. Fawad Alam, the veteran cricketer, has again been ignored for selection. The left-handed batsman aggregated 570 runs at an average of over 40 in Pakistan’s premier domestic competition last season.
Fawad holds the record for the highest first-class average (55.37) in the history of Pakistan cricket. In November 2016, the 32-year-old also reached the milestone of 10000 first-class runs in his 211th innings. Among Pakistan’s cricketers, only Hanif Mohammad (189 innings) completed the landmark of 10000 first-class runs quicker. He also averages over 40 in both ODIs and Tests.
“We have tough series coming after this tour and the players who missed out may get to play in the upcoming matches. They shouldn’t get disheartened,” Inzamam ul Haq, the chief selector, said about the players excluded from the side. “The 2019 World Cup is in England so we want to give our youngsters more and more chances to play in England.
“Wahab is a good bowler and there is no doubt about his abilities. But, he has not been up to the mark of late. We wanted to give a chance to the other bowlers and those who have been selected have proved to be good performers.”
Mohammad Amir, the left-arm bowler, will lead the pace attack. Amir, however, has been in poor form in the longest format of the game, evidenced by the point he has bagged only 44 scalps at an average of 37.25 since his return to the set-up in 2016. Hasan Ali, Muhammad Abbas and Rahat Ali are the other pacers in the squad. With Yasir Shah ruled out of the tours due to a groin injury, Shadab Khan will lead the spin attack.
Pakistan will commence their tour with a four-day warm-up match against county side Kent before locking horns versus Ireland from May 11 in the one-off Test match, the first-ever played by the European country.
Pakistan will then return to England for a two-Test series followed by two T20Is versus Scotland.
Squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Azhar Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Sami Aslam, Haris Sohail, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Saad Ali, Asad Shafiq, Usman Salahuddin, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali,Rahat Ali, Faheem Ashraf