LAHORE: Pakistan is all set to play the second Test of the three-match series against Australia and their 11th Test match at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground from Tuesday (today).

The Shan Masood-led outfit will be eager to prove a point with the series still up for grabs.

Pakistan played a two-day practice match against Victoria XI, from 22-23 December, to fine-tune their preparations. The two-day game played at Junction Oval, which ended as a draw, provided the Pakistan batters and bowlers much-needed match practice.

It may be noted that the series opener at Perth saw Pakistan face defeat by 360 runs, but the silver lining for the visitors was the performance of the two debutants, Aamir Jamal and Khurram Shahzad, who picked up seven and five wickets respectively in the match. Aamir will be looking to build up on his brilliant performance as he registered the sixth-best bowling figures for a Pakistan player on debut with his 6-111.

Meanwhile, Khurram has been ruled out of the Test series due to a stress fracture while Abrar Ahmed remains unavailable for selection for the MCG Test.

Off-spinner Sajid Khan, who flew in as the back-up spinner for Abrar, has been added to Pakistan’s 12-man squad for the MCG Test along with Hasan Ali and Mir Hamza. Wicketkeeper-batter Mohammad Rizwan will replace Sarfaraz Ahmed behind the stumps. The final XI will be unveiled on match day.

Pakistan captain Shan Masood, talking about the team composition for the second Test, said, “I believe in making less changes in the team after a loss to maintain stability but you have to make a few tactical decisions and then unfortunately we had injury concerns as well. Khurram not being available due to injury is such a loss. We’ve brought in Mir Hamza in his place, who has done equally well in the domestic circuit. We think he can emulate Khurram’s control and consistent lengths.”

Talking about Hasan and Rizwan’s inclusion in the 12-man squad, Shan said, “Hasan replaces Faheem Ashraf because he is highly experienced and has a good Test record. Unfortunately, his career has been a stop-start due to injuries but his Test numbers are still impressive.

Bringing in Rizwan for Sarfaraz is a tactical decision as we feel Rizwan can bat well in these conditions, evident from his batting records in Australia, England and New Zealand. Sajid Khan is included in the 12 as a specialist spinner because we haven’t had the opportunity to look at the wicket lately as it rained today. With the 12-man squad we can take the decision on frontline spin option in the morning after having a good look at the wicket.”

He also said, “We have looked at some of our weaknesses from the Perth Test and to be able to compete against a team like Australia, we must work on many areas of the game. I know this Test match is important with respect to our World Test Championship (WTC) standing but still there is a lot to play for in this series and in the ongoing WTC cycle.”

Pakistan’s squad: Shan Masood (c), Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Babar Azam, Saud Shakeel, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Salman Ali Agha, Shaheen Shah Afridi (vc), Hasan Ali, Mir Hamza, Aamir Jamal and Sajid Khan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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