ISLAMABAD: Pakistan have called up prolific run-getter Imran Butt for the first Test against New Zealand as the chances of Babar Azam’s participation in the Test series are becoming increasingly bleak.
Though Babar and Imamul Haq has been ruled out of the first Test, their inclusion in the second Test also looks doubtful. Wicketkeeper Muhammad Rizwan, who is struggling for runs in the T20 series, will lead Pakistan in the first Test starting from December 26. When Rizwan will step out for the toss on Saturday, he will become 33rd captain to lead Pakistan in the traditional format.
An official accompanying the team told ‘The News’ from New Zealand that Babar’s participation in the series looks uncertain. “He is doubtful to play the second Test also. The final decision regarding participation of Babar and Imam in the second Test on January 3 will be made prior to start of the Test,” he said.
Imran Butt managed 27 and 10 in two innings he played for Shaheens against New Zealand A, however his domestic performance in the longer version is impressive. Imran scored 191 runs in the three ongoing four-day first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches before joining the touring party. He had topped batting charts in the 2019-20 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with 934 runs at an average of over 62 with four centuries and three half-centuries.
Also returning to Test side are Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah. They will replace Abdullah Shafiq, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hussain Talat, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Musa Khan, Usman Qadir and Wahab Riaz, who will now join Shaheens for five T20 matches against the local and New Zealand XI sides.
Imad and Hafeez will not be in action after the T20I in Napier. Shan Masood has had a successful year as he has scored 279 runs, second most runs after Babar Azam (338). Shan is followed by Azhar Ali (244), Mohammad Rizwan (171) and Abid Ali (131). Yasir Shah remained leading bowler this year with 15 wickets, followed by Shaheen Afridi (10), Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah (eight wickets apiece).
Head Coach Misbahul Haq said: “It is disappointing to lose the T20I series against a well-settled New Zealand side. We need to improve individual as well as team performances as improvements will be good for players’ confidence and team’s results as 2021 will not be an easy year for us as we have two major events ahead.
“Our Test squad appears to be pretty organised as we have some experienced players in batting and bowling departments. I am hoping that we will prove ourselves a better outfit in the longer version of the game.”
Squad for Tests: Mohammad Rizwan (captain for 1st Test), Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah.
Shaheens for T20s: Rohail Nazir (captain, wk), Abdullah Shafiq, Amad Butt, Danish Aziz, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hussain Talat, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Musa Khan, Usman Qadir, Wahab Riaz, Zafar Gohar and Zeeshan Malik.
Upcoming matches: December 26-30: 1st Test v New Zealand, Mount Manganui.
Dec 27: 1st T20 v Northern Knights, Hamilton.
Dec 29: 2nd T20 v Wellington Firebirds, Wellington.
January 1: 3rd T20 v Canterbury, Lincoln.
Jan 3-7: 2nd Test v New Zealand, Christchurch.
Jan 3: 4th T20 v New Zealand XI, Lincoln.
Jan 5: 5th T20 v New Zealand XI, Lincoln.
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