LAHORE: Pakistan chief selector and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq held a media conference on Saturday at the Gaddafi Stadium Lahore and announced the 16-man squad led by Azhar Ali for the first ICC World Test Championship fixture against Bangladesh.
The selectors have recalled off-spinner Bilal Asif at the back of his 43 wickets in nine Quaid-e-Azam Trophy matches, while Faheem Ashraf has been drafted in the side due to his all-round skills that were backed by his six wickets in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final against Northern.
Two changes have been made in the side that was named for the two ICC World Test Championship Tests against Sri Lanka. Kashif Bhatti and Usman Shinwari have been left out, but they remain in the red-ball plans and have been advised to continue their training and preparation.
While Kashif didn’t play against Sri Lanka, Usman made his only appearance in the Rawalpindi Test where he took one for 54. The first Test match between Pakistan and Bangladesh will be played at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium from February 7-11.
Azhar Ali (captain), Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Bilal Asif, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Imran Khan Snr, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah
Misbah-ul-Haq said: “We have followed the horses for courses policy for the Test against Bangladesh. I know the two players who have been left out will be disappointed, but they remain firmly within our plans for the red-ball cricket we are scheduled to play later this year.
“Kashif Bhatti has paved the way for Bilal Asif considering there are left-handed batters in the Bangladesh top and middle-order, while Faheem Ashraf has been preferred over Usman Shinwari due to his all-round abilities.
“Following our convincing victory in Karachi, I don’t envisage any major changes in the playing line-up but we have tried to cover all our bases just in case the wicket has any surprises for us.
“We ended 2019 on a high with a victory over Sri Lanka and have made a good start to 2020 by winning the T20I series against Bangladesh. I understand the Test will be a different ball game but I am optimistic we will maintain our good form and translate that into another strong performance that will contribute significantly in the overall confidence building of the Test side.
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“We are aiming to collect maximum points from the two upcoming ICC World Test Championship matches against Bangladesh so that when we take the field for the Lord’s Test against England on 30 July, we are in a strong contention for a top-two finish by the end of the 2020-21 season. This is what our aspiration is and that’s what are aiming and striving for.”
The Pakistan team will depart for Rawalpindi on 3 February, where it will fine-tune its final preparations from 4 February.
It is pertinent here to mention that Bangladesh will reach Pakistan for the second leg of the series to play the first Test. The third and final leg of the tour includes a one-day international and the second and final Test match in Karachi.
Let it be known that Pakistan had defeated Bangladesh 2-0 in the three-match Twenty20 International (T20I) series in the first leg earlier held in Lahore. The third T20I was rained off.