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Pakistan's selection frustrations in the Australia series are set to continue after allrounder Faheem Ashraf tested positive for Covid-19, days away from the second Test against Australia in Karachi. That rules out Ashraf for another Test - the second of the three-match series begins on Saturday.
Ashraf tested positive on arrival at the team hotel in Karachi on Wednesday. He will now be placed in isolation for the next five days. Pakistan will take a call in due course on whether they need to replace him - give they are already traveling with a couple of replacement players in the squad.
Ashraf missed the first Test in Rawalpindi - Australia's first in over 23 years in the country - with a hamstring injury he had picked towards the end of the PSL season with Islamabad United. Ashraf has been one of Pakistan's star Test performers over the last year, scoring important runs at number seven and providing more than handy support to a four-man attack.
Such has been his importance that Ramiz Raja, the PCB chairman, all but admitted on Wednesday that Ashraf's absence - as well as that of a couple of other players was one of the reasons the Rawalpindi pitch was made so lifeless.
Pakistan called up Iftikhar Ahmed and Naseem Shah in the first Test to cover for the absences of Ashraf and Hasan Ali - the latter, a key prong of their pace attack - missed out because of an adductor strain, also picked up during the PSL. Both Iftikhar and Naseem played, though the former - ostensibly a direct replacement for Ashraf - only bowled three overs.
Pakistan are confident that Hasan will be fit for the second Test, allowing them to bring back an opening pair that took over 80 Test wickets last year and were the second and third-highest wicket-takers for the year.
The rest of Pakistan's squad returned negative tests, meaning that Haris Rauf is back in contention for selection. Rauf missed the first Test after testing positive for Covid-19.