LAHORE- Pakistan captain Babar Azam and opener Imam-ul-Haq have been ruled out of the first Test starting in Mount Maunganui from 26 December, while the tour selection committee has named prolific domestic run-scorer Imran Butt in the 17-player Muhammad Rizwan-led squad.
Babar had fractured his right thumb a day after Imam had fractured his left thumb during training sessions in Queenstown last week. Both are yet to return to nets with the team’s medical staff closely monitoring their progress. Decision on their participation in the second Test, which commences in Christchurch on 3 January, will be made closer to the time. Babar’s absence means Mohammad Rizwan will captain the Pakistan side in the first Test. When he will step out for the toss on Saturday, he will become Pakistan’s 33rd captain to lead the side in the traditional format of the game.
Balochistan’s 24-year-old Imran Butt scored 191 runs in the three ongoing four-day first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches before joining the New Zealand-bound tour 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 the Pakistan 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 Pakistan Shaheens for five T20 matches against the local and New Zealand XI sides.
Imad Wasim and Mohammad Hafeez will not be in action on the New Zealand tour after the Napier T20I. Imad will travel to Australia to join Melbourne Renegades in the BBL, while Mohammad Hafeez will return to Pakistan. Test players to show some form in Pakistan Shaheens’ 89 runs victory over New Zealand ‘A’ include Azhar Ali (58 and 29), Fawad Alam (3 and 139), Mohammad Abbas (4-40 and 1-34), Naseem Shah (0-55 and 3-44) and Yasir Shah (3-54 and 2-55).
Separately, Shan Masood has had a successful calendar year with the bat in which he has scored 279 runs, second most after Babar Azam (338). Shan is followed by Azhar Ali (244), Mohammad Rizwan (171) and Abid Ali (131). Yasir Shah is the leading Pakistan bowler this calendar year with 15 wickets, followed by Shaheen Shah Afridi (10), Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah (eight wickets apiece).
Misbah-ul-Haq said: “It is disappointing to lose the T20I series against a well-settled New Zealand side, who utilised their resources and conditions to their advantage. We need to up skill and improve our individual and team performances, including in Tuesday’s match, and the sooner we get these sorted the better it will be in term of player confidences and team results as 2021 will not be any easier as we have two major events.
“Contrary to the T20I side, the Test side appears to be pretty organised and we boast some experienced cricketers, both in batting and bowling departments. With some competitive cricket on the tour now under the belt, I am hoping we will be a better outfit in the longer version of the game. “Although it will be nearly two weeks to Babar’s injury when the first Test starts, it will be hard on him and the team to play him without any net sessions. I remain confident and optimistic that other players will rise to the occasion in Mount Maunganui and use the opportunity to rise to the occasion and put the disappointment of the T20I series behind them.”
PAKISTAN 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. (Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq not available for first Test)
PAKISTAN SHAHEENS FOR T20S: Rohail Nazir (captain, wicketkeeper), 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.
Dec 26-30 1st Test v New Zealand Mount Manganui
Dec 27 1st T20 v Northern Knights Hamilton
Dec 29 2nd T20 v Firebirds Wellington
Jan 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