Despite scoring 160 runs in his debut Test match against Australia last month, opener Fakhar Zaman has been left out of Pakistan’s squad for the two-Test series against New Zealand, which starts on November 16. A PCB media release said that he along with legspinner Shadab Khan were rested. Mohammad Amir was ignored again, but 18-year-old Shaheen Afridi, who is uncapped in Test cricket, found a place in the squad.
Besides that, the squad was largely unchanged. Opener Imam-ul-Haq was included in the squad, allaying fears his retiring hurt on Friday was more precautionary than anything else, while Fakhar’s absence will allow Mohammad Hafeez to consolidate his position at the top.
Afridi, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas, and Mir Hamza are the frontline quicks in the squad. In all, Afridi has played only two first-class games, taking 11 wickets at an average of 17.27. He was in excellent form, though, in the ODIs against New Zealand, claiming back-to-back four-wicket hauls.
A PCB statement said chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq had chosen Afridi with his current form in mind, while Saad was rewarded for his consistent domestic performances.
The first Test will take place from 16 November in Abu Dhabi, with the second in Dubai from 24 November. With the conditions in the UAE predictably conducive to spin, seam-bowling allrounder Faheem Ashraf, who has been selected again, might not get a game. Pakistan had preferred Haris Sohail in the series against Australia, with his form and ability to pitch in with left-arm spin counting in his favour.
With Mohammad Abbas’s series-defining performances against Australia ensuring he’s an automatic starter, the remaining fast bowlers are competing for, at most, two other places. Mir Hamza made his debut against Australia in Abu Dhabi, but didn’t quite have the effect that guarantees him a place. Afridi is perhaps likelier to make his debut.
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.