Pakistan is set to begin its busy, challenging and action-packed 2023-24 international cricket season with the first Test of the ICC World Test Championship 2023-25 against Sri Lanka in Galle on Sunday.
The team will play the second and final Test of the series on July 24 in Colombo.
Apart from the ICC World Test Championship matches, the national team is also scheduled to participate in the ACC Asia Cup, ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023 and ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 in the next 12 months.
With back-to-back international cricket across all formats, a strong start in Galle will be the target for Babar and his team.
Galle is one venue where Pakistan and Sri Lanka have achieved mixed results. In the seven Tests so far, the hosts have won four times (2009, 2012, 2014 and 2022), while Pakistan have won three times – by an innings and 163 runs (2000), 10 wickets (2015) ) and four wickets (2022). ,
When Pakistan last won in Galle 12 months ago, the tourists chased down a target of 342 for six, with Abdullah Shafiq scoring a memorable 160 not out and Babar Azam scoring a first-innings double. Scored 119 runs by scoring 55 runs.
Among the bowlers, Shaheen Shah Afridi took four wickets in the first innings, before he was injured during the second innings and ruled out of further participation. However, Mohammad Nawaz’s best bowling figures were five for 88 and Yasir Shah’s three for 122 in the second innings.
Thirteen players from the current squad were part of the team that toured Sri Lanka 12 months ago. The three new faces are all-rounder Amir Jamal, mystery-spinner Abrar Ahmed and middle-order batsman Mohammad Huraira.
“Really excited to be back in the red-ball format and all eyes are on the Galle Test as we look prepared and ready for the challenge,” Babar said. He said that Team Galle is fully prepared and ready for the challenge.
“We are taking it one step at a time, but we have to be consistent across formats,” he added.
The skipper said one of the positives in the Galle Test is that 13 players played at the venue 12 months ago. He said that Abrar Ahmed has identified himself as a good option in our combination.
“I am sure this tour will be a good learning opportunity for him as we have high hopes from him in this and future series.”
Expressing optimism, Babar said that he is happy with the return of star pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi.
“Apart from his wicket-taking ability, his presence always inspires and lifts the team. I know Shaheen has missed red-ball cricket badly and is now hungry for Test cricket.”
Shaheen has 99 Test wickets and is aiming to become the fourth fastest Pakistani fast bowler to complete a century of wickets. He could have achieved this feat last year if he had not been ruled out due to a knee injury.
Last year, Shan Masood, Babar and Saud Shakeel scored half-centuries while Hasan Ali, Shaheen, Ahmed and Amir Jamal took wickets against SLC Board XI in Hambantota.
“Like any host nation, Sri Lanka would also like to play to their strength, which is spin bowling. We have got good feedback about the Sri Lankan team from their former coach Mickey Arthur and I think we are well prepared to face them. We will stick to the basics and be patient because this is Test cricket, a test of skill, temperament and stamina.
“The test results may not have been in our favor over the last 12 months, but we have certainly grown and developed as a team.”
Babar Azam is the holder of the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for the ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Year for 2022. He has so far scored 3,696 runs in 47 Tests with nine hundreds and 26 half-centuries. He is the only cricketer to feature in the top three in all formats – third in Tests, first in ODIs and second in T20Is.
Squad (to be chosen from):
Pakistan: Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan, Amir Jamal, Abdullah Shafiq, Abrar Ahmed, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Huraira, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Noman Ali, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Saud Shakeel Shaheen Afridi and Shan Masood
Sri Lanka: Dimuth Karunaratne (c), Nishan Madushka, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews, Dinesh Chandimal, Dhananjay de Silva, Pathum Nissanka, Sadeera Samarawickrama, Kamindu Mendis, Ramesh Mendis, Prabhat Jayasuriya, Praveen Jayawickrama, Kasun Rajitha, Dilshan Madushanka, Vishwa Fernando , Lakshita Manasinghe
Match Officials: Rod Tucker and Alex Wharf (both on-field), Chris Gaffney (third umpire), David Boon (Match Referee)