Leg-spinner Yasir Shah and all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz have returned to the Test squad for next month's two-match Test series against Sri Lanka, Chief Selector Muhammad Wasim announced on Wednesday.
Pakistan will play their first Test against the hosts at Galle from July 16, while the second Test will start in Colombo on July 24. Before the formal start of the series, the visitors will play a three-day warm-up match from July 11.
Yasir was instrumental in Pakistan’s 2-1 victory over Sri Lanka on their last tour of the island in 2015, grabbing 24 wickets at 19.33. He comes back into the side after regaining full fitness. Yasir played his 46th and most recent Test against the West Indies in August 2021.
Salman Ali Agha, who has scored 4,224 runs and taken 88 wickets in the first-class circuit, is another addition to the squad.
Nawaz is the third player to be recalled. Previously, he was named in the squad for Australia Tests but was later withdrawn due to injury.
The 18-member squad named for the latest series includes three openers, four middle-order batsmen, three all-rounders, two wicketkeepers, two spinners and four fast bowlers.
“We have selected this squad considering the conditions in Sri Lanka and have equipped the team with the best possible resources," said Wasim while announcing the Test squad.
He said the national team's spin department had strengthened with the return of Yasir, who had proved his mettle in Sri Lanka on the team's last tour with assistance from fellow spinner Sajid Khan.
"The spin department also includes two spin all-rounders in Mohammad Nawaz and Salman Ali Agha and left-arm orthodox Nauman Ali," the chief selector added.
Wasim said Agha had shown consistent performances with the bat in the past three seasons, adding he was a handy off-spin option.
“Our team has recently put up strong performances in Bangladesh, although results against Australia were not ideal, we played good cricket, and this is the core reason to instil consistency and continuity [by retaining some of the players in the side]."
The chief selector acknowledged that the two-match series against Sri Lanka was "extremely crucial" for Pakistan keeping in view the battle for points for the World Test Championship. "I wish our boys all the best and I am sure they will make us proud.”
The national side will reach Islamabad on June 25 to finalise their preparations for the Test series at the Pindi Cricket Stadium with a seven-day camp that stretches from June 26 to July 2 July before departing for Sri Lanka on July 6.
Pakistan are currently in the fifth spot on the ICC points table. The national side is looking to improve their position on the table in the upcoming series of the current ICC World Test Championship cycle, which stretches from July 2021 to June 2023.
Pakistan have played three series in the current cycle with victories in three Tests and two ending in a draw.
Babar Azam’s men levelled the two-Test series in the West Indies, defeated Bangladesh 2-0 in their second away assignment before Australia edged out Men in Green with a 1-0 victory in Pat Cummins’ side’s historic tour of the country.
In the upcoming 2022-23, Pakistan are set to host England and New Zealand for three and two Tests in a home international season.
Pakistan squad for Sri Lanka Tests: Babar Azam (captain), Mohammad Rizwan (vice-captain, wicketkeeper), Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Nawaz, Naseem Shah, Nauman Ali, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wicketkeeper), Saud Shakeel, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood and Yasir Shah
Player support personnel: Mansoor Rana (manager), Saqlain Mushtaq (head coach), Shahid Aslam (assistant to head coach), Mohammad Yousuf (batting coach), Shaun Tait (bowling coach), Cliffe Deacon (physiotherapist), Drikus Saaiman (trainer/strength and conditioning coach), Abdul Majeed (fielding coach), Ahsan Iftikhar Nagi (media and digital content manager), Col (retd) Muhammad Mukarram Khan (security manager), Dr Muhammad Khurram Sarwar (team doctor), Talha Ejaz (analyst) and Malang Ali (masseur).