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Azam and Imam ruled out of 1st test against New Zealand

December 21, 2020 GMT
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Karachi Kings Babar Azam plays a shot against Lahore Qalandars during the final of their Pakistan Super League T20 cricket match at National Stadium in Karachi, Pakistan, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)
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Karachi Kings Babar Azam plays a shot against Lahore Qalandars during the final of their Pakistan Super League T20 cricket match at National Stadium in Karachi, Pakistan, Tuesday, Nov. 17, 2020. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan)

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s all-format captain Babar Azam and opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq have been ruled out of the first test against New Zealand with thumb injuries.

Both batsmen fractured their thumbs during training session last week and have yet to return. The Pakistan Cricket Board said in a statement on Monday that the team’s medical staff is closely monitoring the progress of both players.

“A decision on their participation in the second test, which commences in Christchurch on Jan. 3, will be made closer to the time,” the PCB said.

Wicketkeeper batsman Mohammad Rizwan will lead the side in the first test, starting at Mount Maunganui from Dec. 26.

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Pakistan named uncapped 24-year-old batsman Imran Butt in its 15-member squad for the first test. Butt scored 934 runs in the 2019-20 first class tournament at an average of 62 with four centuries and three half centuries.

In the absence of Azam, Pakistan trails 2-0 in the three-match Twenty20 series against New Zealand with the last game due to be played at Napier on Tuesday.

“It will be nearly two weeks to Babar’s injury when the first test starts, (but) it will be hard on him and the team to play him without any net sessions,” Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said.

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

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Squad for 1st test: Mohammad Rizwan (captain), Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah.