NZ v PAK 2020-21: Babar Azam, Imam Ul Haq ruled out of first Test against New Zealand 

Pakistan have suffered a major blow before the all-important Test series.

Babar Azam | GettyPakistan will be without their captain and premier batsman, Babar Azam, for the first Test against New Zealand starting Boxing Day (December 26) in Mount Maunganui. 

Babar suffered a fracture to his right thumb while practising in the build-up to the tour's T20I series in Queensland last week and is yet to return to training. 

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Besides Babar, opener Imam Ul Haq has been ruled out too after he also sustained a fracture but to his left thumb in the practise sessions. 

Both the players are currently being monitored by the team's medical staff, said the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) in a media release, with a decision on their participation in the next Test in Christchurch, starting January 3, expected closer to the encounter. 

In Babar's absence, wicketkeeper batsman Mohammad Rizwan will be captaining the side at the Bay Oval and become Pakistan's 33rd Test skipper in cricket history. 

The selection panel has also included young uncapped Balochistan right-hander Imran Butt to the squad for the two-Test series. The 24-year-old made 191 runs in three first-class games before travelling to New Zealand.  He was also at the top of the run-charts for last winter's Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with 934 runs at an average above 62, including four centuries and three half-centuries.

"Contrary to the T20I side, the Test side appears to be pretty organised and we boast some experienced cricketers, both in batting and bowling departments. With some competitive cricket on the tour now under the belt, I am hoping we will be a better outfit in the longer version of the game," Misbah Ul Haq, the Pakistan head coach, said in the statement. 

"Although it will be nearly two weeks to Babar's injury when the first Test starts, it will be hard on him and the team to play him without any net sessions."

"I remain confident and optimistic that other players will rise to the occasion in Mount Maunganui and use the opportunity to rise to the occasion and put the disappointment of the T20I series behind them."

Test specialists Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah will return to action for the first time since the tour of England earlier this year. 

From Pakistan's T20I squad, Abdullah Shafiq, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Hussain Talat, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Musa Khan, Usman Qadir and Wahab Riaz will now join the touring Pakistan 'A' side, while Imad Wasim and Mohammad Hafeez will feature for the last time on the trip with the third T20I on Tuesday (December 22) in Napier. 

Imad will travel across to Australia and play for Melbourne Renegades in BBL 10, whereas Hafeez will be flying back home to Pakistan. 


By Kashish Chadha - 21 Dec, 2020

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