Imam-ul-Haq is set to make his Test debut when Pakistan face Ireland in Dublin on Friday.
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed told reporters at the Malahide ground on Thursday that the tourists would field the same side as played in their preceding nine-wicket win at Northamptonshire, in what will be Ireland’s first Test match.
That would mean opener Imam, the nephew of selection chief and former Pakistan batsman Inzamam-ul-Haq, making his debut instead of Sami Aslam, who opened during Pakistan’s drawn Test series in England two years ago.
Imam’s selection in the squad provoked allegations of nepotism. But the 22-year-old left-hander, who hit a hundred on his one-day international debut against Sri Lanka last year, has made fifties against both Kent and Northamptonshire in Pakistan’s two warm-up matches ahead of this one-off Test.
Aslam, by contrast, made 13 against Kent and did not play against Northamptonshire. “We have already decided, we will play the same team that played against Northamptonshire,” said Ahmed. “We played our first match against Kent and they [Imam and Sami] both played together so we saw who was playing well,” added the wicketkeeper. “Nowadays we saw that Imam was playing better: he scored two fifties in the practice matches (61 against Kent and an unbeaten 59 against Northamptonshire) so that’s why we go with Imam-ul-Haq.”
Pakistan are without the injured Yasir Shah for a tour where, after their match against Ireland, they will also play two Tests in England. But they appear to have an able replacement in fellow leg-spinner Shadab Khan, with the 19-year-old taking a first-class career-best 10 for 157 against Northamptonshire.
“Definitely Yasir Shah is a very experienced bowler and we miss him a lot but the good thing is Shadab Khan bowled really well in the last tour match,” said Ahmed. “He got 10 wickets against Northamptonshire, so hopefully Shadab will bowl well in the Test matches as well.”
Pakistan’s drawn four-day tour opener against Kent in Canterbury saw two whole days washed out, but conditions in Northampton allowed them to complete a morale-boosting win. “Two days [in Ireland] was very cold but today it is very shiny [sunny],” said Ahmed. “The last practice match was very good—everything was complete, batsmen batted well, bowlers bowled well, so we are ready to play a Test match.”
Meanwhile, Ahmed added Pakistan were honored to be the Ireland men’s team’s first opponents at Test level. “It is a big honor for me and my team to play this historic Test match—the first Test match to be played in Ireland. I think it’s a great achievement for Cricket Ireland to play Test cricket and my congratulations on behalf of Pakistan.”
Pakistan team to play Ireland:
Azhar Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (capt/wkt), Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Abbas, Rahat Ali