Pakistan call up Saim Ayub and Khurram Shahzad for Australia Test tour
Opening batter Saim Ayub and fast bowler Khurram Shahzad are in line for Test debuts after being included in Pakistan's squad for their upcoming tour of Australia.
Pakistan, under newly-appointed red-ball captain Shan Masood, will play three Tests on the tour, in Perth (December 14-18), Melbourne (December 26-30) and Sydney (January 3-7).
The 21-year-old Ayub has already played eight T20Is for Pakistan, and comes into the Test team with 1069 first-class runs at an average of 46.47, including scores of 203 and 109 in his most recent game in October, the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy final. Shahzad has also been picked on form, having ended the 2023-24 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy as its top wicket-taker with 36 at an average 20.30.
Left-arm quick Mir Hamza was the second-highest wicket-taker in the tournament (32 at 20.87), and this has earned him a recall. The last of his three Tests was against New Zealand in January. Also back in the squad is the seam-bowling allrounder Faheem Ashraf, the last of whose 16 Tests was in December 2022.
Apart from Naseem Shah, who continues his recovery from the shoulder injury that kept him out of the recently concluded World Cup in India, Pakistan's pace attack will also be without Haris Rauf, who has made himself unavailable for selection. Newly appointed chief selector Wahab Riaz made his disappointment clear while announcing the squad: "Haris pulled out at the last moment, and I feel this will hurt Pakistan cricket."
Both wicketkeepers Sarfaraz Ahmed and Mohammad Rizwan were part of the squad, with Sarfaraz understood to be first choice. He replaced Rizwan in the Test side last year, and has retained his place in the last four Tests across two series.
Abrar Ahmed's selection further cements his place as Pakistan's premier red-ball spinner, with Noman Ali chosen as his back-up option. Spin options across formats have been a matter of intense scrutiny in Pakistan, with legspinners Shadab Khan and Usama Mir turning in disappointing performances through the World Cup. Abrar went to the World Cup as a reserve player, but was not called up to the main squad.
Pakistan have an unenviable record in Australia, having lost their last 14 Test matches on the bounce there.
Pakistan squad for Australia Test series: Shan Masood (capt), Aamer Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Jnr, Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Agha Salman, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Afridi
Group B Hyderabad v Meghalaya at Jaipuria Vidyalaya Ground - 5 December 2023
Hyderabad (India) won by 9 wickets (with 188 balls remaining)
Group C Karnataka v Mizoram at Gujarat College Ground - 5 December 2023
Karnataka won by 6 wickets (with 197 balls remaining)
Group A Kerala v Railways at Kini Sports Arena Ground - 5 December 2023
Railways won by 18 runs
Group B Maharashtra v Manipur at Dr Soni Stadium - 5 December 2023
Maharashtra won by 167 runs
Group A Mumbai v Odisha at KSCA Cricket (3) Ground - 5 December 2023
Odisha won by 86 runs