Batsmen Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Usman Salahuddin and Saad Ali received maiden Test call-ups as Pakistan named a 16-man squad for the tour to England and Ireland in May. As expected, there was no place for fast bowler Wahab Riaz, while Shan Masood, the leading run-scorer in the recently concluded Regional One-Day Cup in Pakistan, has been ruled out with a knee injury.
It is a squad that contains a notably large batting contingent, with youth more prevalent than experience – all told, as many as five players could be in line for their Test debuts over the three games, with three others having played a combined five Test matches. The absence of Yasir Shah meant Pakistan brought in Shadab Khan, who, within a year, has become the leading spinner for the side in limited-overs cricket, but has played only a solitary Test so far.
“Yasir’s absence is a big loss for us,” chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq said. “If we look at his numbers for the last two years, he has more wickets than any other bowler for Pakistan. He was our strike bowler, all the games we’ve won he played a big part in. I hope he recovers quickly from his injury because we have some big home Test series coming up after this series too, and we will need him in the UAE.”
Haris Sohail, who retains his place after he made his debut in the home series loss against Sri Lanka last year, may also find himself in a crucial all-round role with his part-time spin. Other than Shadab, he is the only player in the squad capable of providing a spin option of any potency, and may find himself being turned to if Pakistan are to avoid overburdening Shadab.
Saad Ali’s inclusion is notable for the reason he’s the only player in the squad selected purely on the basis of his Quaid-e-Azam trophy form, Pakistan’s beleaguered premier first-class competition. In the previous season, he was the best batsman in the competition by a distance, scoring 957 runs at an average of 68.35.