Regular skipper Babar Azam and Imam-ul-Haq have been ruled out of the upcoming first Test between Pakistan and New Zealand in Mount Maunganui starting from December 26 (Saturday). Mohammad Rizwan will captain the side in the absence of Babar, becoming the 33rd Test captain of Pakistan.
Incidentally, Babar fractured his right thumb and Imam had fractured his left thumb during training sessions in Queenstown last week. Babar Azam missed the three-match T20I series and both of them are yet to return to training in the nets. The team’s medical staff is closely monitoring their progress and a decision on their participation in the second Test will be taken on a closer time. The 2nd Test begins from December 3 in Christchurch.
Mohammad Rizwan to lead in place of Babar Azam
Meanwhile, the selection panel has picked Imran Butt from Balochistan in the 17-man Test squad for the two Tests. The 24-year-old scored 191 runs in three Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches this year before boarding a flight to New Zealand. Imran had also finished as the highest run-scorer in 2019 with 934 runs at an average of over 62, which included four centuries and three half-centuries.
“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,” head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said.
Speaking further, Misbah said that he is confident that other players will step up to the task in the absence of skipper Babar Azam. Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah have also made a return to Pakistan’s Test side.
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 the first Test)