Pak vs Aus third Test : Shaheen Shah Afridi rested, Saim Ayub to debut

After suffering two consecutive defeats at the hands of Australia, under pressure Pakistan are looking to avoid a whitewash by the hosts as the Green Shirts are set to play the third and final Test of the Benaud-Qadir Trophy at Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) from January 3-7.

The Shan Masood-led side aims to end the three-Test series on a high note as Pakistan have made two changes for the final Test of the series against Australia.

After their 360-run defeat at Perth in the series opener, Pakistan put on a spirited display in Melbourne before Australia claimed victory on the fourth day of the match.

Ahead of the series finale, Shan is leading the run-scoring chart for Pakistan after producing twin half-centuries in the Boxing Day Test. Aamir Jamal, after making his debut in the series opener, is the second-highest wicket-taker of the series so far. He has taken 12 wickets in two games, including a five-wicket haul.

Opening batter Saim Ayub would make his Test debut as he would replace Imam-ul-Haq in the upcoming clash between the two sides at the Sydney ground. Saim had earned his maiden Test call-up following an impressive domestic season.

Left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi has been rested with spinner Sajid Khan replacing him in the side.

It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan will be persisting with the three changes made ahead of the MCG Test.

Mir Hamza, who replaced an injured Khurram Shahzad in the playing XI, registered his career-best figures in Melbourne. He accounted for six wickets in the match, including a double-wicket maiden in Australia’s second innings.

Hasan Ali and Mohammad Rizwan, who replaced Faheem Ashraf and Sarfaraz Ahmed at MCG respectively, have also kept their place in the side.

In the pre-match press conference, Pakistan captain Masood said: “We have learned from the mistakes we made in the first two matches. Going forth, it is about not repeating them, especially when playing against quality sides. If we keep playing like this, I am sure there will be a lot of Test wins in the future.

“At Melbourne, we played good cricket all four days but there were several chances we could have seized the game. We will work on the lessons learned. We are positive about the direction our team is taking.”

Reflecting on Shaheen, the captain said, “Personally and as a team, we have never had any doubts when it comes to Shaheen. If you look at his records, he has bowled the highest number of overs in a while in world cricket. It is up to us to make sure he is looked after, physically and mentally.”

He further added: “Fitness and workload impact performance. Our all-format players have been playing continuous cricket for a while now—they have played three World Cups in the past three years while also playing the World Test Championship simultaneously. We have been trying to address this to balance match significance and workload.

“Players like Khurram Shahzad, Aamir Jamal and Mir Hamza have done well in tough conditions. This reflects the success of our domestic system, as it has broadened our bench strength. We want to give similar chances to our batters too, so we can widen our player pool in each department.”

Pakistan playing XI for the SCG Test: Shan Masood (c), Saim Ayub, Abdullah Shafique, Babar Azam, Saud Shakeel, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Salman Ali Agha, Sajid Khan, Aamir Jamal, Hasan Ali and Mir Hamza

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