Pakistan bat first; Rehan Ahmed debuts as Azhar Ali prepares to bow out

Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat first vs England

The retiring Azhar Ali has been recalled for a farewell appearance in international cricket as Pakistan’s captain Babar Azam opted to bat first against England at Karachi’s National Stadium and looked to avoid ending the series on the wrong end of a clean sweep.
Azhar, 37, announced on Friday that he would retire from Tests after this series and while Babar had been reluctant to confirm his inclusion, he was confirmed as one of four players to come into the Pakistan side along with Shan Masood, Nauman Ali and debutant Mohammad Wasim Jnr.

Wasim, 21, has previously played eight ODIs and 26 T20Is and was handed his Test cap by Azhar. He has taken 20 wickets at 24.85 in his seven first-class matches to date and is one of two seamers in the Pakistan side along with Faheen Ashraf.

Babar explained his decision to bat first by saying that the pitch looked dry on the first morning, and said that Imam-ul-Haq had not been fit enough to play after injuring his hamstring in the second Test in Multan. Mohammad Nawaz, Zahid Mahmood and Mohammad Ali were the three players left out.

England had previously flagged their two changes, with Rehan Ahmed, Leicestershire’s legspinning allrounder, becoming the youngest man to play Test cricket at 18 years and 126 days old. He was presented with his cap by Nasser Hussain, with his father Naeem Ahmed – who grew up in Pakistan – joining the England huddle to witness the moment.

Ahmed breaks the record set by Brian Close in 1949 and the Karachi Test will be only the fourth first-class match of his career, after three appearances in the County Championship this summer. He is carded to bat at No. 8 and is a straight swap for Will Jacks, while Ben Foakes returns to keep wicket with James Anderson rested.

England’s change in balance will mean Ben Stokes, who did not bowl a ball in their win in Multan, will have a bigger role with the ball. “I guess I’m going to have to [bowl more] with three seamers this week,” he said at the toss.

“We would have batted,” Stokes admitted. “[But] looking at the wicket, I wasn’t too fussed if I won or lost [the toss]. We’d love to win this game and love to leave here [having won] 3-0, but the biggest and most important thing is the process and how we want to play.”

Pakistan: 1 Abdullah Shafique, 2 Shan Masood, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Babar Azam (capt), 5 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 6 Salman Ali Agha, 7 Saud Shakeel, 8 Faheem Ashraf, 9 Nauman Ali, 10 Mohammad Wasim Jnr., 11 Abrar Ahmed

England: 1 Zak Crawley, 2 Ben Duckett, 3 Ollie Pope, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Harry Brook, 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Ben Foakes (wk), 8 Rehan Ahmed, 9 Ollie Robinson, 10 Jack Leach, 11 Mark Wood

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