Injured Azhar Ali ruled out of first Test
Azhar Ali, the Pakistan batsman, has been ruled out of the opening Test against England that starts on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi. Azhar suffered a toe injury during the series against Zimbabwe earlier this month and since then he has not trained.
"He will not be playing in the first Test," Intikhab Alam, the Pakistan team manager, confirmed to ESPNcricinfo. "His wound is almost dried up but he is not comfortable wearing his shoe and didn't take part in training activities since we are here."
The news is a significant setback for Pakistan, who had been optimistic about Azhar's recovery until today's assessment which revealed that the pus in his infected wound had not completely healed up. As Pakistan's ODI captain, he missed the final match of last week's series win in Zimbabwe, but it is understood that the searing heat in the UAE has set back the recovery process.
This is Azhar's first injury setback since his Test debut against Australia at Lord's in 2010, and with a current Test average of 44.06 in 44 matches, including nine hundreds, England's bowlers will be grateful for his absence.
He made a matchwinning 92 not out against England at The Oval in 2010 and completed the 3-0 whitewash on their last tour of the UAE with a second-innings 157 at Dubai, after Pakistan had been bowled out for 99 in their first innings.
"He played very well last time at No. 3," said James Anderson, England's attack leader. "He was the guy to get out for them even with their experienced players after him, I thought he was the key wicket for us so he'll be a big miss. But they have plenty of other quality players who have made big runs out here."
Azhar's absence means that one of Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez is likely to fill the void at No.3, with Shan Masood set to retain his opener's role following his matchwinning century against Sri Lanka at Pallekele in July.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson