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Update Mohammad Abbas, Shan Masood left out for South Africa Tests

[Image: abbas-will-now-train-at-the-hi.jpg]

Pakistan have dropped fast bowler Mohammad Abbas, Shan Masood and Haris Sohail from the Test squad for the forthcoming home series against South Africa. The 20-man squad features as many as nine uncapped players signalling a new direction for the side that was just beaten 2-0 on the road at New Zealand.

Babar Azam will take over as captain from Mohammad Rizwan and skipper Pakistan's red-ball team for the first time in Karachi after a thumb fracture put him out of contention in New Zealand. Returning to the squad is 26-year-old fast bowler Hasan Ali, who enjoyed a dream first class season, finishing with 43 wickets at 20.06 as well as slamming a thrilling century in the first-ever tied final of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. Hasan, the Player of the tournament at the 2017 Champions Trophy, appears to have rediscovered his bowling zip following a spate of back-related injuries which reduced his efficacy, eventually costing him his central contract.

Legspinner Shadab Khan remains on the sidelines with his groin injury while Naseem Shah's hamstring niggle keeps him out. Mohammad Nawaz and Nauman Ali will join Yasir Shah as the spin options while 36-year-old Tabish Khan will shore up the fast-bowling stocks in the absence of Naseem. Haris Rauf, of the Melbourne Stars fame, has been called up to the squad alongside alongside Imran Butt, Kamran Ghulam and Salman Ali Agha.

"Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas and Shan Masood have been dropped due to inconsistent performances. However, the PCB will not let its investment on these talented players go to waste and will invite them to the High Performance Centre so that they can work out their technical flaws and get back into contention," said chief selector Mohammad Wasim.

"Shan's bad form has opened doors for Abid Ali's new partner, be it either Abdullah Shafique or Imran Butt, who was last season's top scorer. Together with Abdullah, he was in New Zealand with the Shaheens side. Kamran Ghulam (1,249 runs), Saud Shakeel (970 runs) and Salman Ali Agha (941 runs) walk into the middle-order to support Azhar Ali, Babar Azam and Fawad Alam. This is a formidable and highly skilled middle-order, which will encourage a further healthy competition for a permanent place in the side."

The first of the two-Test series begins on January 26 at the National Stadium in Karachi. The second Test at Rawalpindi will be followed by a three-match T20I series.

Squad: Abid Ali, Abdullah Shafique, Imran Butt, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam ©, Fawad Alam, Kamran Ghulam, Salman Ali Agha, Saud Shakeel, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Yasir Shah, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Tabish Khan


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