By our correspondent
LAHORE: Following the ICC World Cup debacle in India Pakistan will be looking to regain prestige rather through longest format when they take on Australia in the first Test of the three-match Benaud-Qadir Trophy at Perth Stadium on Thursday.
The first ball is expected to be bowled at 0720 PKT.
Pakistan currently top the ICC World Test Championship 2023-25 points table after having started the campaign on a winning note against Sri Lanka earlier this year. Overall, Pakistan are ranked sixth on the ICC Men’s Test team rankings.
Reigning world Test champions, Australia will be kicking off their second series of the ongoing WTC cycle. Australia are ranked fifth on the table after their series against England, where they won two, lost two and drew a game. Pakistan’s last Test tour to Aussie shores yielded a two-nil loss in 2019-20. In the recent Test series between both sides in March 2022, Australia took the honours with a 1-0 victory in the three-match Test series held in Pakistan.
Shan Masood, who became Pakistan’s 35th Test captain ahead of the series, will be playing his first game as captain. The first match of the series will be a milestone game for Babar Azam as he will feature in his 50th Test match for Pakistan. Babar Azam is ranked fourth in the ICC Test batters rankings. Shaheen Shah Afridi is ranked fifth in the Test bowlers rankings. Shaheen bagged six wickets in Pakistan’s first two WTC 2023-25 matches earlier this year.
In the ongoing WTC cycle, Saud Shakeel and Abdullah Shafique are the two leading run-scorers for Pakistan with 295 and 228 runs respectively. Salman Ali Agha has amassed 221 runs in the championship and has also picked up three wickets.
As part of their preparations, Pakistan locked horns with the Prime Minister’s XI in a four-day first-class match in Canberra which ended in a draw. The squad traveled to Perth on 10 December and the team has undergone three extensive training sessions at Perth Stadium. Mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed has been ruled out of the Perth Test due to injury and his replacement, off-spinner, Sajid Khan joined the squad in Perth on Tuesday.
On the eve of the series opener, Pakistan announced their playing XI for the first Test including debutants Aamir Jamal and Khurram Shahzad.
Pakistan’s playing XI for first Test – Shan Masood (captain), Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Babar Azam, Saud Shakeel, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wicket-keeper), Salman Ali Agha, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Aamir Jamal and Khurram Shahzad
Pakistan skipper Shan Masood addressed the media before the first Test and said, “I think it is best to look at the bigger picture as a side, look at the process, look at how we want to play cricket and take results as a by-product. If we play good cricket for five days consistently, I’m sure we’ll be on the right end of the results. For us right now it’s how we grow as a side and if we do the right things for a long period then we’ll get the results.
“The beauty of this game is that you get to do something different and that’s what we want to do as a side. We want to go forward and play attractive Test cricket and if the results come our way then well and good but if they don’t then we’ll go back to the drawing board and try to rectify our mistakes. I see a lot of potential in this side and a lot of players who can take Pakistan forward. For us, it is about the bigger picture and playing good cricket and making sure we can compete against the best and this is the perfect opportunity to do so.”
By our correspondent