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Azhar Ali confirms Mohammad Abbas' inclusion for second Test
Pakistan News

Azhar Ali confirms Mohammad Abbas' inclusion for second Test

Pakistan are set to bring Mohammad Abbas in the team for the second Test in Australia while skipper Azhar Ali will be dropping down the order to bat at number three.

These changes in the line-up were confirmed by Azhar in a press conference on the eve of the pink-ball encounter between the two sides at Adelaide Oval.

Abbas' surprise omission for Pakistan's opening game of the World Test Championship left many bewildered given his superlative record in the conventional five-day format.

In addition to bagging 66 wickets at an average of a shade under 19 in 14 Tests, Abbas tormented Australia last year when they travelled to the UAE for a two-match series.

The canny right-arm paceman picked up 17 wickets in Pakistan's 1-0 win over Australia including a record 10-wicket haul in Abu Dhabi - the first instance of a fast bowler registering this feat on the dry pitches of the UAE.

Also Read: How can Australia tackle ex-tormentor-in-chief Mohammad Abbas?

"Definitely there will be some changes," Azhar said of Pakistan's team combination before admitting Abbas was the obvious change.

"He's [Abbas] done well in Test matches, he can definitely bring a lot of control and he has worked a lot since the last Test match on his rhythm and he is feeling better," he said.

"Obviously a bowler of his class, you feel he has something to offer so we are very confident with the amount of work he has done over the last week."

Azhar maintained every player was available for selection and did not specify who Abbas would be replacing in the day-night Test.

It is likely Imran Khan will face the axe after failing to vindicate the selectors' faith in him with a poor outing in Pakistan's humiliating innings defeat in Brisbane.

Pakistan are also pondering resting teenage speedster Naseem Shah, who impressed in his first appearance in international cricket but questions have been raised over the youngster's ability to match the gruelling requirements of Test cricket.

Also Read: Pakistan adamant on challenging hot favourites Australia in Adelaide

"The last couple of weeks have not been easy for him. But we backed him as he troubled the batsmen with his daunting lengths.

"We have to take into consideration how much he’s been through as he is just 16. We have to be careful and don’t want to push him too much. The management will think hard about how to manage his workload," Azhar claimed.

Naseem's potential absence might pave the way for another uncapped pacer Musa Khan to make the cut for the final XI.

Musa, a product of the Pakistan Super League, participated in the third T20I against Australia and played a red-ball practice game leading up to the Test series.

“He’s another promising star. He’s short but very rapid and fit.

"The way he bowls in the nets is very impressive. Hopefully, he starts well in Test cricket and transfers his form,” Azhar told reporters.

The 34-year-old's form of late has been a worrying prospect for the team's success in Tests. Although he fought doggedly in the first innings at the Gabba for a sedate contribution of 39 runs, he subsequently fell cheaply to a sharp in-swinging delivery from Mitchell Starc.

 Azhar Ali punches one off the front foot ©Getty Images

Azhar Ali punches one off the front foot ©Getty Images

Azhar communicated his decision to demote himself to number three in the batting order with Haris Sohail, who has accumulated 27 runs in five innings on this tour, expected to be dropped from the side.

“We will go with two openers and I will bat at No. 3."

'We would love to play more Test matches'

Pakistan's embarrassing losing streak in Australia sits at 13 consecutive defeats and Azhar shed light on the importance of the bowlers standing up to challenge the hosts more effectively.

"A lot of our tours to Australia we have struggled to pick up wickets. We have to control the rate, bowl in good areas for a long time," he said.

"Wickets in Australia, a lot of people say there is bounce and pace. But equally it is good for batting as well, so if you can't bowl well for a long period of time, you can't put teams under pressure."

"If we want to pick up 20 wickets we have to execute our plan perfectly."

Azhar also suggested a dearth of five-day fixtures in Pakistan's cricket schedule was hurting their Test unit.

Pakistan play the least number of matches (13) alongside the island nation of Sri Lanka in the inaugural Test championship and Azhar felt this would prove to be an obstacle in the improvement of the team.

“We always love to play more Test matches. Pakistan doesn’t play many Tests matches, which is not good for any team," he complained.

"If we play more games, we will get time to adjust to the conditions better and having practice matches before a pink-ball clash is ideal.”