Shaheen Shah Afridi has returned to Pakistan’s Test squad for the two-match series against Sri Lanka next month. The 16-member roster also includes batter Muhammad Hurraira and allrounder Aamer Jamal. It’s a maiden Test call-up for both of them.
From the last Test squad, which played a two-match home series against New Zealand in December-January, Shahnawaz Dahani, Zahid Mahmood and Kamran Ghulam missed out.
Morne Morkel, meanwhile, has been appointed as the team’s bowling coach with a six-month contract.
Afridi, who is currently on 99 Test wickets, last played in the format in July 2022. That was also against Sri Lanka, in Galle, where he sustained a knee injury. He made a comeback at the T20 World Cup in October but hurt his knee again in the final. Earlier this year, he captained Lahore Qalandars to their second successive PSL title. He also featured in the subsequent T20I and ODI series against New Zealand, and is currently playing the T20 Blast in England, where he is the top wicket-taker for Nottinghamshire.
“I am very excited to be returning to the Pakistan Test side after a year,” Afridi said. “I dearly missed Test cricket and it was tough for me to be away from this format.
“After missing our entire home season because of the injury I suffered in Sri Lanka, I am eager to make an impactful comeback in the same country and complete a century of wickets in Test cricket. I want to thank my fans who have provided me support in tough times and I am ready for the challenges ahead.”
Hurraira, 21, has been rewarded for his performances in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy; he was the highest run-getter in the previous two seasons. In 24 first-class games, he has 2252 runs at an average of 68.24, with a best of 311 off 343 balls. He was the second-youngest triple-centurion in Pakistan, behind Javed Miandad.
Jamal made his Pakistan debut during the T20I series against England last year. In his very first game, he impressed by defending 14 runs in the last over against Moeen Ali and David Willey.
He was also the leading wicket-taker among fast bowlers in the 2022-23 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, taking 31 scalps at 29.71. More recently, he picked up five wickets in the only red-ball game he played for Pakistan Shaheens against Zimbabwe Select. He topped the charts in the white-ball series, with 16 strikes in six games at an economy rate of 6.33.
The squad features four spinners, four fast bowlers, six specialist batters and two wicketkeeper-batters, including Mohammad Rizwan, who has also been drafted in for the Global T20 Canada, which is set to clash with the Sri Lanka Tests next month.
“The conditions in Sri Lanka largely favour finger spinners – something that we have seen over the years and during Pakistan’s last visit to the island – so we have three such bowlers to go with the mystery spin of Abrar Ahmed,” chief selector Haroon Rashid said. “At the same time, we cannot overlook the need for fast bowlers and, as such, we have included four pacers so the captain and team management have ample resources on the tour. We boast a strong batting line-up, which I am confident will do well in the two matches.
“The players who have missed out on the selection should not get bogged down as they firmly remain part of our plans. We have an exciting and challenging season ahead of us and they should make the most of the opportunities in domestic cricket and Shaheens’ tours to keep themselves ready.”
This series will be Pakistan’s first assignment in the new World Test Championship cycle, which runs from 2023 to 2025. The squad will assemble in Karachi on July 3 for a camp before departing for Sri Lanka on July 9. The itinerary of the tour has not been announced yet.
Pakistan Test squad: Babar Azam (capt), Mohammad Rizwan (vice-capt, wk), Aamer Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hurraira, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Noman Ali, Agha Salman, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood