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Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Ali get maiden call-ups for England Tests; Fawad, Hasan, Yasir dropped

Shaheen Shah Afridi is not fit and available for selection yet

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
Fawad Alam played only one Test in Sri Lanka in July and scored 24 and 1  •  AFP/Getty Images

Fawad Alam played only one Test in Sri Lanka in July and scored 24 and 1  •  AFP/Getty Images

Pakistan have handed maiden call-ups to legspinner Abrar Ahmed and fast bowler Mohammad Ali for the home Test series against England next month. The selectors also dropped Fawad Alam, Yasir Shah and Hasan Ali, who had been part of the Sri Lanka tour in July earlier this year.
Shaheen Shah Afridi, who injured himself in the T20 World Cup final, is not fit yet after he also got operated on recently for appendix and will undergo rehab for his knee injury after two weeks. Apart from regular quick Naseem Shah, Pakistan retained Haris Rauf, Mohammad Wasim and recalled Faheem Ashraf for the three Tests.
Both Abrar and Mohammad Ali have been rewarded for their sparkling performances in the domestic circuit.
Abrar, a 24-year-old legspinner from Sindh, is currently the leading wicket-taker in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with a tally of 43 from six games at an average of 21.95, including five five-fors.
Central Punjab's Mohammad Ali, who is 30, has been among the top fast bowlers in first-class cricket in Pakistan in the last two seasons with a combined 56 wickets. His 24 wickets in the current QeA season, including two five-wicket hauls, at 25.54 from six matches are the most for any fast bowler as the two bowlers above him are spinners: Abrar and Mubasir Khan. Last season, his 32 wickets at 22.78 in eight matches were also the most for a fast bowler as he finished only behind left-arm spinner Ali Usman.
"There have been the usual factors considered to put together this team for this series that involves assessing the opposition, our own strengths, and the sort of conditions we are going to play at," Mohammad Wasim, Pakistan chief selector, said while addressing the media in Lahore. "The current form of our players in the ongoing first-class season has also been given considerable importance in selecting players. Those players who are selected came through the ranks after years of performances.
"Our focus has been on the player's current form and for this series, we would like to give chances to a new player who has been traveling with the team and scoring runs in the domestic circuit. Obviously when your senior pro's form is down and he [Fawad Alam] isn't scoring runs, we decided to give our new, young boys a chance. Our main theory is to give weightage to the domestic performance and look out if there is a spot available to grab. If there is a settled number for a player scoring runs, you can't dislodge him and so domestic performers will have to wait. It's a simple law or way of cricket selection; you can't unsettle the settled players just for the sake of trying out new players."
It is learnt that Rauf - a specialist white-ball fast bowler - is likely to step up in Afridi's absence along with Naseem. "At the moment we don't have a lot of big fast bowling options in red-ball cricket," Wasim said. "But there has been an issue with injuries and the space is empty for someone else to fill in. Haris is one of those fast bowlers who has been with the team and we have identified that he can be lethal in Test cricket as well. The sort of conditions we have in our mind, he can be effective with new ball as well as with the old ball."
Apart from three specialist and one fast bowler in Ashraf, Pakistan picked up four options for spin - Zahid Mehmood, Abrar, Nauman Ali and Mohammad Nawaz.
"Zahid is another bowler who has been in the plans," Wasim said. "He has shown improvement over the years and has been part of the successive squads. We have boosted our fast bowling stocks with the best available talent. There is no doubt about the skills of Mohammad Wasim Jnr. He moves the new and old ball laterally at high pace, which is a huge plus for any side. Mohammad Ali has shown great patience and control, and his numbers speak for his consistency. He has been our best fast bowler in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy with 56 wickets at an average of 24 over the last two seasons."
The first Test will begin on December 1 in Rawalpindi followed by the second in Multan from December 9 and third in Karachi from December 17. The opening Test will be England's first on Pakistan soil in 17 years, and will go ahead in Rawalpindi as planned originally, after the potential of a political unrest had raised the prospects of a switch to Karachi.
"England are obviously the top team across all formats and they have changed their style of cricket," Wasim said. "They play attacking cricket in Test cricket as well, but obviously we have the advantage of our home conditions. We have our strategies but at the same time saying England will be a softer opponent in our conditions isn't how we want to think, but the sort of cricket we are playing, we think results will come in our favour. I am confident that this team will ensure that the upcoming Test series against England will end in the same manner as it did when they last toured Pakistan in 2005 [2-0]."
Test squad Babar Azam (capt), Mohammad Rizwan, Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Abrar Ahmed, Mohammad Ali, Shan Masood, Faheem Ashraf, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Nawaz, Nauman Ali, Saud Shakeel, Zahid Mahmood, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Naseem Shah, Agha Salman, Sarfaraz Ahmed

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent