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Pakistan v England 2022/23

Why have Pakistan not included Mohammad Abbas for their Test series against England?

by Calum Trenaman 5 minute read

As the first Test of the England’s historic Pakistan tour fast approaches, it remains an exciting unknown which bowlers Pakistan will select, and in particular which pace bowlers they will select.

After Shaheen Afridi was forced to withdraw from the series with injury, Pakistan have been bold in their squad selection. The 19-year-old Naseem Shah will lead the attack for the first time in his Test career, and that alone is a tantalising prospect. But his supporting cast has raised a few eyebrows. Three of the cohort of pace bowlers selected are uncapped at Test level.

There is no doubting the talent of Haris Rauf and Mohammad Wasim, but there are still question marks surrounding their proficiency in the longest form of the game. They have good first-class bowling averages, but between them they have played only 15 first-class matches. Hardly a large sample size. In fairness to Wasim, he is still only 21, whereas at 29 Rauf has made just eight first-class appearances. The 30-year-old Mohammad Ali completes the uncapped trio. He has a commendable first-class average of 211 wickets at 23.36, and enjoyed a productive Quaid-e-Azam Trophy this year, taking 24 wickets at 25.54. His probing out-swingers certainly have the potential to unsettle England batsmen in conditions unfamiliar to the many members of the squad who have never played in Pakistan. But to go into a landmark Test series with so many bowlers unproven at Test level feels like a risk.


All this prompts the question: why haven’t Pakistan selected Mohammad Abbas? The answer is unclear because statistically, it is hard to see why not. He’s enjoyed an excellent 2022. In the County Championship, Abbas played a crucial role in Hampshire fearsome pace attack, taking 50 wickets in 12 matches at a brilliant average of 17.62. More recently, he took 18 wickets for Southern Punjab in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy at 24.16. It is easier to see why another relatively experienced Pakistan bowler was omitted in the form of Hasan Ali. Ali has a good Test record, but his performance in this year’s Quaid-e-Azam Trophy doesn’t demand a recall, taking just 14 wickets at 40, after losing his Test place earlier in 2022.

Some may argue that Abbas’ drop off in performances for Pakistan in recent years justifies his omission now, opening the way for others to be given a chance. His most recent appearance for Pakistan came in the West Indies in early 2021 where he took only six wickets in two Tests at an average of 26. Prior to that he struggled in New Zealand, averaging 45 with the ball. It should be noted that all of Pakistan’s bowlers struggled though, with Afridi’s six wickets at 42.83 leading the pack. Pakistan’s 2020 series in England brought him a modest return of only five wickets at 35.80.

Experience counts for a lot at Test level. And although he has played 25 Tests in his career, only three of those were played in Pakistan: two against Sri Lanka, and a solitary Test against Bangladesh. This certainly won’t count against him, especially considering he had decent performances in those games. But they may not count for him, or at least for him enough eclipse any competition.

In Mohammad Ali, Pakistan have selected a bowler of similar in style and age to Abbas. They are both in their thirties, neither are particularly quick, with both utilising consistency and swing to get the better of their opponents. The selectors may have decided that to select both in the squad would fail to offer a perceived requisite in the variety that they desire the Pakistan attack to possess.

But it remains difficult not to return to Abbas though. Despite a difficult few series in 2020 and 2021, he still holds a Test bowling average of 23.02, with a career average of 21.40 against England. Had he been selected, he would be the only pace bowler in the Pakistan side with a Test average of under 30, with Naseem Shah and Faheem Ashraf currently both sitting in the mid-30s. With form very much on his side, and his history of troubling English batters, the omission of Abbas in this series could be one that Pakistan come to regret.

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