Saim to make debut as Pakistan look to end test series on consolation note

By our correspondent
LAHORE: Pakistan are set to play the last match of the Benaud-Qadir Trophy at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) from 3 to 7 January. The Shan Masood-led side will be looking to avoid a whitewash by Australia after the hosts took an unassailable lead by winning the Boxing Day Test at Melbourne.

After their 360-run defeat at Perth in the series opener, Pakistan put on a spirited display in Melbourne before Australia claimed victory on the fourth day of the match.

Ahead of the series finale, Shan is leading the run-scoring chart for Pakistan after producing twin half-centuries in the Boxing Day Test. Aamir Jamal, after making his debut in the series opener, is the second highest wicket-taker of the series so far. He has taken 12 wickets in two games, including a five-wicket haul.

Opening batter Saim Ayub will be making his Test debut, coming in place of Imam-ul-Haq. Saim had earned his maiden Test call-up following an impressive domestic season. Left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi has been rested with spinner Sajid Khan replacing him in the side.

Pakistan will be persisting with the three changes made ahead of MCG Test. Mir Hamza, who replaced an injured Khurram Shahzad in the playing XI, registered his career-best figures in Melbourne. He accounted for six wickets in the match, including a double-wicket maiden in Australia’s second innings. Hasan Ali and Mohammad Rizwan, who replaced Faheem Ashraf and Sarfaraz Ahmed at MCG respectively, have also kept their place in the side.

Pakistan captain Shan Masood, in the pre-match press conference, stated: “We have learned from the mistakes we made in the first two matches. Going forth, it is about not repeating them, especially when playing against quality sides. If we keep playing like this, I am sure there will be a lot of Test wins in the future.

“At Melbourne, we played good cricket all four days but there were several chances we could have seized the game. We will work on the lessons learned. We are positive about the direction our team is taking.”

Reflecting on Shaheen, the Pakistan captain said, “Personally and as a team, we have never had any doubts when it comes to Shaheen. If you look at his records, he has bowled the highest number of overs in a while in world cricket. It is up to us to make sure he is looked after, physically and mentally.”

He further added, “Fitness and workload impact performance. Our all-format players have been playing continuous cricket for a while now—they have played three World Cups in the past three years while also playing the World Test Championship simultaneously. We have been trying to address this to balance match significance and workload.

“Players like Khurram Shahzad, Aamir Jamal and Mir Hamza have done well in tough conditions. This reflects the success of our domestic system, as it has broadened our bench strength. We want to give similar chances to our batters too, so we can widen our player pool in each department.”

Pakistan playing XI for the SCG Test: Shan Masood (c), Saim Ayub, Abdullah Shafique, Babar Azam, Saud Shakeel, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Salman Ali Agha, Sajid Khan, Aamir Jamal, Hasan Ali and Mir Hamza

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