Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez has been dropped for Pakistan’s Test series against South Africa in the UAE. Fast bowler Mohammad Irfan has made a return in the 12-man squad named by the PCB. The board will expand the squad to 15 following Pakistan A’s match against the touring South Africans, between October 8 and 10, in Sharjah.
Hafeez was expected to miss out, given his poor form in Test cricket this year. He has aggregated 102 runs in 10 Test innings this year, and was particularly exposed against the moving ball by Dale Steyn on Pakistan’s tour to South Africa in February. Pakistan have not played top-level opposition in Test cricket since, but Hafeez’s struggles in the long format continued against Zimbabwe in September – he scored 59 in four Test innings on that tour, despite being the Man of the Series in the ODIs.
Pacer Wahab Riaz also misses out from the squad that played the Zimbabwe Tests. Pakistan had drawn that series 1-1, with Zimbabwe recording their first win against Pakistan in 15 years in the second Test. Against South Africa in February, Pakistan had lost the Tests 0-3. Irfan had featured in that series, but missed out in Zimbabwe; now he returns.
Batsmen Asad Shafiq, Faisal Iqbal and Shan Masood, and seamer Eshan Adil, also miss out from the squad that played Zimbabwe, but unlike Riaz and Hafeez, they were named in the Pakistan A squad for game against the South Africans, so they could still feature in the final Test 15 if they impress in that match. Shafiq is most likely to be one of the three players added to the squad.
The only new face in the squad is left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar. Babar, 34, has been part of the domestic circuit for more than ten years and featured in T20s previously, but is yet to debut in Test cricket for Pakistan. The team management is mulling playing three spinners in the line-up, and so Babar could fit in alongside Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman.
Fast bowler Umar Gul, who was targetting a comeback against South Africa after being sidelined by a knee injury since March, is yet to return.