The 18-year-old was expected to make his Test bow after a shoulder injury to seamer Mohammad Abbas. On Sunday, Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed confirmed Afridi’s debut as he ruled out Abbas’ participation in the third and final Test.
“Shaheen is improving day by day and has talent,” the wicketkeeper batsman stated on the eve of the clash.
“He’s a good kid and understands cricket. Allah has given him talent and if he keeps himself fit, he is a bowler who can play for Pakistan for 10 to 12 years going forward,” Sarfraz added.
Afridi will be eager to put on a good show in his maiden Test outing after he bagged the man-of-the-series award in the preceding ODI series between the two sides. While the left-armed pacer could be key against the Kiwis, Sarfraz is hoping that leg-spinner Yasir Shah can keep up his impressive form.
Shah had picked up a 14-wicket haul in the second Test at Dubai to lead Pakistan to a crushing win by an innings and 16 runs. He is now just five wickets away from becoming the quickest to register 200 dismissals in Test history.
“The way Yasir is bowling he has got his rhythm back and we hope that with the return of his form he will do his best to win us this Test and the series,” the Pakistan skipper stated.
Sarfraz’s counterpart Kane Williamson also lauded Shah’s prowess and marked him down as the dangerman for the decider.
“He (Yasir) is a world class bowler. He clearly had a fantastic last game and bowled a number of very nice deliveries and used the conditions really, really well,” the Kiwi skipper stated.
Despite having squandered the 1-0 lead advantage his team had gained by winning the series opener at Abu Dhabi by four runs, Williamson believes there are plenty of positives for his men to take to the decider.
“There were some positives we would need to build from. It’s really an exciting prospect and the guys really are looking forward to the decider,” the 28-year-old said.
A win for New Zealand in the Abu Dhabi Test would make it their first Test series win on Asian soil since 2008 and the first away victory against Pakistan since 1969.
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