Yasir Shah is in line to play his first Test in nearly a year after he was included in Pakistan's 18-member squad to tour Sri Lanka for a two Test series in July. The squad is largely unchanged from the one that took on Australia at home for a three-match Test series in March, with Zahid Mahmood and Sajid Khan omitted, while uncapped allrounder Agha Salman, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Naseem Shah come into the fray.
Yasir's inclusion is by some distance the most notable development. The legspinner has endured a troubled last 12 months, which included struggles with injury and fitness, as well as his naming in a rape case, though the charges against him were later dropped. He was instrumental in Pakistan's 2-1 series victory last time the two sides met in Sri Lanka in 2015, taking 24 wickets at 19.33. He went on to be named the Player of the Series.
Hasan Ali retains his place in the side after an indifferent recent spell of form, though most of that dip has come in the white-ball format; he was named Pakistan's Test player of the year in 2021. In the recent series against Australia, he played two matches, taking two wickets at 96 apiece. Shan Masood, too, keeps his place as reserve opener; the allrounder memorably scored his first Test hundred in a historic fourth innings chase that won Pakistan the series-deciding rubber on Pakistan's last tour to Sri Lanka.
"We have selected this squad considering the conditions in Sri Lanka and have equipped the team with the best possible resources," chief selector Muhammad Wasim said. "Our spin department is boosted with the return of Yasir Shah, who proved himself as a match-winner in Sri Lanka on our last tour and Sajid Khan has made the way for him. The spin department also includes two spin all-rounders in Mohammad Nawaz and Salman Ali Agha and left-arm orthodox Nauman Ali.
"Salman Ali Agha has shown consistent performances with the bat in the past three seasons and he is a handy off-spin option. Our team has recently put strong performances in Bangladesh and although results against Australia were not ideal, we displayed solid cricket. For that reason we have retained the core to instil consistency and continuity and have trimmed the squad size following the relaxation in Covid-19-induced travel restrictions."
Pakistan will begin the series with a three-day warm-up match starting July 11. The series will begin in Galle on July 16, with the second Test to start on July 24 in Colombo.