Star Pakistan pacer rested for 3rd Test against Australia; 21-year-old batter set to make his debut in Sydney
In the latest developments for Pakistan's cricket team, Vice-Captain Shaheen Shah Afridi will be sitting out of the third and final Test against Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). This decision is part of a strategy to manage Afridi's workload. In addition to that, Saim Ayub is set to make his Test debut, replacing opener Imam-ul-Haq who had a challenging performance in the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), despite scoring a half-century in Perth.
The Pakistan team has been facing challenges with the unavailability of Abrar Ahmed, who is still recovering from an injury. Ahmed bowled in the nets on Monday, but there are concerns about his fitness for the five-day match and his capacity to handle the responsibilities of Pakistan's lead spinner. His discomfort in the right leg during the Prime Minister's XI game in Canberra has made the team cautious about playing him, fearing that they might be reduced to ten players early in the Test.
As a result, Abrar was ruled out of each of the Tests. Sajid Khan, who was brought in as his replacement in Perth, is now set to play his first game of the series. This marks Khan's first Test since Australia's tour of Pakistan in 2022. Despite being overshadowed by Abrar and Noman Ali, injuries to these players and Pakistan's intent to include a spinner at the SCG have led to Khan's return to the team.
Afridi's absence from the team is a significant surprise, especially after captain Shan Masood's recent praise of him as the leader of the attack. Afridi's pace has been a point of discussion since his return from injury last year, often not exceeding the low 130s. With the absence of key bowler Naseem Shah and a relatively inexperienced fast bowling attack, Afridi has faced an increased burden. He has bowled nearly 100 overs in this series, more than any other player from both teams.
The decision to bench Imam-ul-Haq is less surprising, considering his recent form and struggle to maintain an attacking approach as emphasized by Masood. Ayub, although having limited experience in red-ball cricket, is expected to align more closely with the team's aggressive playing style.
The 21-year-old has a pretty good first-class record with over 1000 runs at an average of 46.47, including three centuries and as many fifties.
On the Australian front, captain Pat Cummins announced that the hosts will enter the third Test with an unchanged lineup, holding a 2-0 lead in the series.