Abrar Ahmed may be fit in time for Pakistan New Year Test against Australia in Sydney

There is cautious hope in the Pakistan camp that legspinner Abrar Ahmed may be fit in time for the third Test in Sydney. Abrar, who was ruled out of the first two Test matches with a right leg injury, bowled for a significant period in the nets during Pakistan’s training session on Monday without obvious discomfort.
While that represents reason for optimism, the nature of Abrar’s injury means it does not guarantee his participation in the third Test. While he was initially ruled out after complaining of “discomfort in his right leg” during Pakistan’s tour game against Prime Minister’s XI in Canberra, Abrar’s history of injury issues makes any degree of certainty elusive.

ESPNcricinfo understands part of the issue afflicting Abrar involves a pinched nerve in his right leg and a weakness in his muscles, and he was given injections as part of his treatment. But Pakistan will wait to see how he pulls up overnight after today’s training session, and if significant pain or discomfort arises over the next 12 hours or so, it will determine his ability to start in the final Test.

Since he was initially ruled out of the first Test, the PCB only issued a vague update about his fitness status when ruling him out of the second. They declared that his “symptoms have significantly improved” but that he was not “100% asymptomatic”. There are also understood to be concerns about his ability to manage the workload required of a leading spinner in a Test match, and Pakistan understand the risk of selecting him, given the potential any injury flareup effectively reduces them down to ten players.

Pakistan are also aware of the risk of any injury to Abrar in a T20 World Cup year. He is part of Pakistan’s squad for the upcoming five-match T20I series against New Zealand, and the PCB views him as a valuable white-ball asset in addition to a key Test spinner.

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.

Pakistan have also called up Sajid Khan and Mohammad Nawaz as cover, though neither have played a Test match this series so far. Both also bowled during Pakistan’s training session on Monday.

Pakistan are understood to be keen to play a specialist spinner in the third Test, having gone with an all-seam attack in each of the previous two. Agha Salman was used as the spinner in those games, and while his discipline and economy rate have impressed Pakistan, the absence of a wicket-taking spinner has been felt. Nathan Lyon has nine wickets in the first two Tests, while Salman has managed one.

The third Test starts on January 3, with Pakistan looking to avoid what would be a sixth successive clean sweep in Australia.

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