Pakistan received a major blow on Tuesday as seamer Mohammad Abbas was ruled out of the Boxing Day Test against South Africa.
Skipper Sarfraz Ahmed revealed Abbas hasn’t recovered fully from the shoulder injury he suffered in the UAE. Abbas hurt his shoulder while diving in the field during the Dubai Test against the Kiwis.
Leg-spinner Shadab Khan – whose groin injury continues to hamper his career – is unavailable for selection. However, opening batsman Fakhar Zaman is available after being sidelined due to a knee injury.
“Abbas is not fit for the first Test, hopefully he will be fit for the second Test,” Sarfraz said. “Shadab Khan, too, will be back for the second Test, but Fakhar Zaman is fit.”
In the absence of Shadab and Abbas, Pakistan will rely on pacers Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi and Faheem Ashraf with leg-spinner Yasir leading the spin department.
South Africa too are battling fitness issues with seamer Vernon Philander ruled out of the opening Test due to a fractured finger while pacer Lungi Ngidi has been sidelined for a long duration due to a knee injury.
The International Cricket Council has asked the Pakistan Cricket Board to pay 60 per cent of the legal costs incurred by the Indian cricket board while being involved in the case pertaining to a dispute over bilateral matches.
The Pakistan board had claimed damages up to $70 million from the BCCI for not fulfilling terms of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the two sides to play six bilateral series from 2015 and 2023.
However, the ICC dispute panel ruled in India’s favour as the MOU was not binding. Now, the ICC has asked PCB to reimburse BCCI’s legal expenses.
PCB were unhappy at the directive but added that not being asked to pay the entire legal fees was a minor victory.
“The PCB notes the ICC Dispute Panel’s decision on BCCI’s claims for their legal expense incurred on the PCB-BCCI dispute. The award of significantly lesser costs than claimed by BCCI reflects that PCB’s case had merits. The PCB, however, reiterates its disappointment in the original decision/award given against it.”
Sarfraz’s men will play Three tests, five one-day internationals and three Twenty20s against the Proteas.
They have only won two Tests out of their past five tours in South Africa, and must recover from a Test series loss against Blackcaps after being in the driving seat for much of the finale in Abu Dhabi.
However, Sarfraz – who recently said he is willing to step down as captaincy if he doesn’t get the required results – has backed Pakistan to deliver in South Africa should veteran batsmen Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq set the tone.
“Conditions in South Africa are tough with bouncy and seaming pitches so anyone who plays without fear and with a big heart will succeed,” Sarfraz told AFP.
“We need big innings from both Azhar and Shafiq and they are capable of doing that, so if we put good totals on board we have a good bowling attack to win the match.”
Worst Batting Average as Captain since Sarfraz Ahmed was announced as Test Captain— Israr Ahmed Hashmi (@IamIsrarHashmi) December 7, 2018
28.50 Sarfraz Ahmed
30.05 Jason Holder
36.50 Faf du Plesis
45.57 Joe Root
49.39 Dinesh Chandimal
55.27 Kane Williamson
63.20 Steve Smith
70.65 Virat Kohli
*min 10 innings batted #PAKvNZ
Mohammad Amir is also back amongst the squad after being dropped for both the Australia and New Zealand tours in the UAE.
In the meantime, he has taken 23 wickets in four domestic red-ball matches back home.
“Amir is back after a good performance at the domestic level so we hope he gets us key wickets in Tests,” said Sarfraz of Amir.
Pakistan open the tour with a three-day game against Cricket South Africa Invitation XI at Benoni from December 19, with the first Test commencing November 26 in Centurion.