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Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq ruled out of first Test; Mohammad Rizwan to lead Pakistan
Pakistan News

Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq ruled out of first Test; Mohammad Rizwan to lead Pakistan

Pakistan captain Babar Azam and opener Imam-ul-Haq will not participate in the first Test against New Zealand after failing to recover in time from their respective thumb fractures.

In Babar's absence, Mohammad Rizwan will become Pakistan's 33rd Test skipper following his promotion to the vice-captain role in November.

Additionally, Pakistan have named uncapped Imran Butt in the 17-man squad for the first Test scheduled to commence in Mount Maunganui on December 26.

Babar had copped a blow to his right thumb during a throwdown session in Queenstown last week, ruling him out of the ongoing T20I series. A day before Babar's injury, Imam also met a similar fate to his left thumb during the training routine.

Both players have not returned to practice with the team's medical staff continuing to closely monitor their progress.

"Decision on their participation in the second Test, which commences in Christchurch on 3 January, will be made closer to the time," the PCB said in a statement.

Imam's exclusion from the Test line-up may not have a sweeping effect on the Pakistan side given the presence of the settled opening duo of Abid Ali and Shan Masood.

However, Babar's injury creates problems for the team given his status as the country's premier all-format batsman over the past couple of years.

Pakistan have already been subjected to two top-order collapses in Babar's absence during the T20Is with the visitors trailing behind New Zealand's unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.

“It is disappointing to lose the T20I series against a well-settled New Zealand side, who utilised their resources and conditions to their advantage," said head coach Misbah-ul-Haq. "We need to upskill and improve our individual and team performances, including in Tuesday’s match, and the sooner we get these sorted the better it will be in term of player confidences and team results as 2021 will not be any easier as we have two major events."

24-year-old Imran Butt was the leading run-scorer in the 2019-20 edition of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, amassing an impressive tally of 934 runs at an average in excess of 62.

Prior to joining the touring contingent, Imran scored 191 runs in three rounds of the current Quaid-e-Azam Trophy season.

Sarfaraz Ahmed, Sohail Khan and Faheem Ashraf have retained their Test spots despite not getting a chance in the England tour earlier in the summer. Middle-order batsman Haris Sohail is also a part of the Test squad, having pulled out of the England series for personal reasons.

"Contrary to the T20I side, the Test side appears to be pretty organised and we boast some experienced cricketers, both in batting and bowling departments. With some competitive cricket on the tour now under the belt, I am hoping we will be a better outfit in the longer version of the game," Misbah said.

On Babar's case, Misbah commented: "Although it will be nearly two weeks to Babar’s injury when the first Test starts, it will be hard on him and the team to play him without any net sessions."

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Shaheens squad has been announced for the five T20 matches against local and New Zealand XI sides, that will be held concurrently with the Tests.

Shaheens will be led by Rohail Nazir and includes white-ball specialists such as Wahab Riaz, Haris Rauf, Khushdil Shah and Usman Qadir in the team.

Pakistan squad for first Test: Mohammad Rizwan (capt & wk), Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan, Yasir Shah

Shaheens squad for T20s: Rohail Nazir (capt & wk), Abdullah Shafiq, Amad Butt, Danish Aziz, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hussain Talat, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Musa Khan, Usman Qadir, Wahab Riaz, Zafar Gohar and Zeeshan Malik