LAHORE: Youngsters Saim Ayub and Khurram Shehzad earned their maiden calls for Tests as the squad for Australia tour was announced on Monday.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) revealed an 18-member Test squad led by the newly-appointed red-ball captain Shan Masood for the three Tests scheduled from December 14, 2023, to January 7, 2024.
Saim, the 22-year-old left-handed opener, earned his maiden Test call-up after an exceptional run in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2023-24 with 553 runs in four matches, including a match-winning double century in the final.
Khurram Shahzad, the 23-year-old right-arm fast bowler, is set to make his Test debut following an impressive domestic season, finishing as the highest wicket-taker in the Quaid Trophy with 36 wickets.
Those who made a comeback are Faheem Ashraf, a pace bowling all-rounder who last appeared in Tests during England’s tour of Pakistan in late 2022, and left-arm pacer Mir Hamza, who secured 32 wickets at an average of 20.88 in the Quaid Trophy.
Haris Rauf has declared himself unavailable for selection and Naseem Shah continues his recovery from a shoulder injury that sidelined him from the recently concluded World Cup. Chief Selector Wahab Riaz said: “Haris pulled out at the last moment, and I feel this will hurt Pakistan cricket.”
The selected squad will assemble in Rawalpindi on November 22 for a comprehensive training camp at Pindi Cricket Stadium, scheduled from November 23 to 28. Departure is set for November 30.
Wahab said that the squad was selected keeping in view the Australian conditions, with a focus on adapting to pitches and bolstering pace bowling resources.
Alongside the squad members, additional players invited to feature in the training camp are Arshad Iqbal, Kashif Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Shahnawaz Dahani, Usama Mir, and Usman Qadir.
“The announced squad reflects a strategic approach to blend experience and emerging talent. The training camp serves as a crucial platform for players to fine-tune their skills and strategies ahead of the demanding Test series in Australia,” said Wahab.
Pakistan have performed poorly in Australia, losing 14 Tests on the trot with the last success in 1995. Saim and Aamer Jamal have represented Pakistan in Twenty20 internationals but are untested in the five-day format. Shaheen is the only fast bowler to have played in Australia.
1st Test – Perth, 14-18 December 2023
2nd Test – Melbourne, 26-30 December 2023
3rd Test – Sydney, 3-7 January 2024
Squad: Shan Masood (captain), Aamer Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim, Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Agha Salman, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Babar returns to nets to gear up for Australia Tour
By our correspondent
Former Pakistan captain and star batter Babar Azam returned to the practice nets as he prepares for the upcoming challenging three Test match tour of Australia.
The development follows Babar’s significant decision to step down as captain after Pakistan’s disappointing exit from the World Cup 2023. He shared a glimpse of his net session on social media, captioning it with the words “Back in harness.” Babar Azam, known for his prolific batting, achieved remarkable milestones during his captaincy, becoming the fastest player to score 1,000 runs in ODI cricket for Pakistan.
Additionally, he became the first Pakistani batsman to score three consecutive centuries in ODIs. Under his leadership, Pakistan briefly held the number one spot in the ICC One Day International rankings. Despite the team’s dip in performance leading to a group stage exit in the World Cup, Babar Azam remains committed to his team and the sport.
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