Star spinner returns as Pakistan announce squad for Sri Lanka Tests

Pakistan will tour Sri Lanka in July for two tests that will form part of the 2021-23 ICC World Test Championship cycle, with veteran Yasir Shah making his comeback.

Yasir, 36, has been instrumental in Pakistan’s success in red ball cricket in recent years before injuries forced him to the sidelines. He last played a test in August 2021.

However, he has now reclaimed his place for the upcoming trip to Sri Lanka, where Pakistan will play two WTC23 Tests, starting on July 16.

Yasir played a pivotal role the last time Pakistan toured Sri Lanka for a Test series. The visitors went on to win the series 2-1, with the leggie finishing as the highest wicket-taker with 24 wickets in three matches at an average of 19.33.

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Mohammad Nawaz also makes a comeback after missing the test series at home against Australia.

Uncapped all-rounder Salman Ali Agha has been given a first call-up to the Test squad. A right-arm batter and right-arm off-spinner by trade, Salman has been rewarded for his consistent returns in first-class cricket, racking up 4,224 runs and taking 88 wickets.

Babar Azam will take the lead in the two Tests that will have major implications for the World Test Championship standings. The two sides are crazy in the table with Sri Lanka in fourth place with a points percentage of 55.56, while Pakistan is one spot lower with 52.38%.

Selection: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah.

Speaking about the strong squad selected for the tour, Chief Selector Muhammad Wasim said: “We selected this squad given the conditions in Sri Lanka and equipped the team with the best possible resources.

“Our spin department is getting a boost with the return of Yasir Shah, who proved himself as a match winner in Sri Lanka on our latest tour and Sajid Khan has paved the way for him. The spin division also includes two spin all-rounders in Mohammad Nawaz and Salman Ali Agha and the orthodox left-arm Nauman Ali.

“Salman Ali Agha has had a consistent performance with the bat over the past three seasons and he is a handy off-spin option.

“Our team recently put in a strong performance in Bangladesh and although the results against Australia were not ideal we showed solid cricket and as a result we kept the core to ensure consistency and continuity and reduced the squad size after the easing in Covid-19-induced travel restrictions.

“These two matches are extremely crucial for our side as we have World Test Championship points at stake. I wish our boys all the best and I’m sure they will make us proud.”

Pakistan arrives on July 6 for the series which starts in Galle on July 16 before the action moves to Colombo for the second Test in Colombo. The visitors also play a three-day warm-up match before the start of the series.

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