Abrar Ahmed likely to miss Pakistan’s first Test against Australia after ‘discomfort in right leg’

Legspinner Abrar Ahmed is almost certain to miss Pakistan’s first Test against Australia in Perth after complaining of “discomfort in his right leg”. ESPNcricinfo understands that while the extent of the injury is unclear, a recovery period that sees him available for the first Test, starting December 14, is believed to be “highly unrealistic”. With his involvement in the remainder of the series not yet confirmed, the PCB is understood to be looking at alternatives.

On day three of the warm-up match against the Prime Minister’s XI in Canberra, Abrar went off the field after bowling 27 overs, in which he conceded 80 runs and took the wicket of Marcus Harris. He will go for the MRI scan on Saturday, and even if he is cleared of serious injury, the recovery timeline is likely to rule him out of the first Test.

Should that happen, Pakistan’s current squad has one other specialist spin option in left-arm spinner Noman Ali. Noman has played 15 Tests and taken 47 wickets, though he was primarily utilised on slow, low surfaces that were more conducive to his bowling style. With the Optus Stadium in Perth very much the opposite of that, he was expected to be behind Abrar in the pecking order, but unless Pakistan play an all-seam attack or call up an emergency replacement, Noman’s chances of playing have increased.

Abrar, 25, has played only six Tests since making his debut against England last December. But 11 wickets in his first Test, and 38 so far, clubbed with the paucity of Pakistan’s spin-bowling stocks have made him an important player. While much of his early cricketing days were blighted by lengthy, persistent injuries, there were signs he was putting that behind him, though his current injury scare could set back some of the gains he has made.

With Pakistan going through a lean period regarding the spin department, the options they could consider calling up are legspinners Usama Mir and Shadab Khan. Mir is already in Australia, having been granted an NOC to play for Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League until December 28. He featured in the first game of the tournament on Thursday, conceding 20 runs in two wicketless overs against Brisbane Heat. He is yet to play a Test. Shadab, meanwhile, last played a Test in 2020, and is unlikely to be a serious candidate for a call-up.
The choices for a call-up based on the performances in the latest Quaid-e-Azam trophy are similarly uninspiring. The most prolific spinner in the tournament was uncapped, 35-year-old Kashif Bhatti with 23 wickets at 25.52. Noman was the next with 22 at 23.04, followed by another 35-year-old, Zahid Mahmood (22 at 41.50), who played two Tests last year.

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