Fakhar, Imam receive maiden call-ups to Ireland, England Tests

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LAHORE: Batsmen Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Usman Salahuddin and Saad Ali received maiden call-ups in a 16-man Test squad for Pakistan’s tour to Ireland and England named by chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq on Sunday, with no place – as expected – for fast bowler Wahab Riaz, reported Cricinfo.

It is a squad that contains a notably large batting contingent, with youth more prevalent than experience at first glance – all told, as many as five players could be in line for their Test debuts over the three games, with two others having played a combined three Test matches. The absence of Yasir Shah meant Pakistan brought in Shadab Khan, who, within a year, has become the leading spinner of the side’s limited-overs attack, but has played a solitary Test so far.

“Yasir’s absence is a big loss for us,” Inzamam said. “If we look at his numbers for the last two years, he has more wickets than any other bowler for Pakistan. He was our strike bowler, all the games we’ve won he played a big part in. I hope he recovers quickly from his injury because we have some big home Test series coming up after this series too, and we will need him in the UAE.”

Haris Sohail, who retains his place after he made his debut in the home series loss against Sri Lanka last year, may also find himself in a crucial all-around role with his part-time spin. Other than Shadab, he is the only player in the squad capable of providing a spin option of any potence, and may find himself being turned to if Pakistan are to avoid overburdening Shadab.

Saad Ali’s inclusion is notable for the reason he’s the only player in the squad selected purely on the basis of his Quaid-e-Azam trophy form, Pakistan’s beleaguered premier first-class competition. In the previous season, he was, by a distance, the best batsman in the competition, scoring 935 runs at an average of 68.35 – no other batsman scored more than 735 runs or averaged greater than 50 in a season noted for its low scores and bowler-friendly pitches.

Squad: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt &wk), Azhar Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Sami Aslam, Haris Sohail, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Saad Ali, Asad Shafiq, Usman Salahuddin, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali,Rahat Ali, Faheem Ashraf