ISLAMABAD: Fast bowler Shaheen Afridi returned to the Pakistan squad for the two-match Test series against Sri Lanka next month, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said on Saturday, with uncapped batter Mohammad Huraira and all-rounder Aamir Jamal also inducted in the 16-member team.
The squad for the series, which will be Pakistan’s first assignment in the third cycle of the ICC World Test Championship, has been designed keeping in mind the conditions that the team will encounter in Sri Lanka, according to the PCB. The team boasts four spinners, four fast bowlers, six specialist batters and two keeper-batters.
Afridi is one wicket away from reaching a century of Test wickets and no Pakistan bowler has picked up more wickets than him since the left-armer made his debut on December 3, 2018. The 23-year-old averages 24.86 and has an economy of 3.04.
“I am very excited to be returning to the Pakistan Test side after a year. I dearly missed Test cricket and it was tough for me to be away from this format,” Afridi said in a statement shared by the PCB.
“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.”
Huraira has played 24 first-class, 10 List A and six T20s and has earned the spot after an impressive run. He was the leading run-scorer in the last two iterations of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.
In the 2022-23 edition, the 21-year-old, who hails from Sialkot, was the only batter to breach the 1000-run mark, playing an integral role in helping Northern to maiden first-class title. In 11 matches, Huraira smashed four centuries and two half-centuries on his way to 1,024 runs at an average of 73.14.
He continued his first-class form on the tour of Zimbabwe last month scoring 178 and 64 against Zimbabwe A at Kwekwe and Mutare.
Huraira holds the record for being the second youngest batter to score a first-class triple-century in Pakistan, behind legendary Javed Miandad. he achieved the feat in the 2021-22 season, hitting 311 off 343 in Northern’s thumping win of an innings and 170 runs over Balochistan at the State Bank Ground, Karachi.
Huraira will be joined by his Northern and Shaheens’ teammate Aamir. The 27-year-old, who hails from Mianwali, topped the wicket-takers chart for the fast bowlers in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy 2022-23, taking 31 scalps at 29.71 and recorded two five-wicket hauls. He was the leading wicket-taker in the recent six-match One-Day series between Zimbabwe Select and Pakistan Shaheens with 16 dismissals at an average of 21.
Aamir’s career’s highlight, however, was defending 15 runs in the last over against England’s Moeen Ali on his Pakistan debut in September last year. Aamir’s immaculate death bowling helped Pakistan to a thrilling six-run win over England in the fifth T20 International of the seven-match series. Aamir has the experience of two T2oIs, 23 first-class, 23 List A and 20 T20s.
Pakistan and Sri Lanka last played a Test series in July 2022 that resulted in a 1-1 draw.
Pakistan squad: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (vc & wk), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Huraira, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Noman Ali, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Afridi and Shan Masood