HAMBANTOTA: Pakistan’s playing XI for the first ODI against Afghanistan has been finalised and a “full strength” squad will be fielded today at the Mahinda Rajapaksa International Cricket Stadium, Hambantota.
According to sources, the team management has decided to implement a rotation policy in the three-match series to provide chances to all the players.
The possible playing XI includes Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Rizwan, Salman Ali Aga, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Usama Mir, Naseem Shah and Haris Rauf.
The option of Mohammad Nawaz is also available to the selection panel.
The first bilateral ODI series between the two teams will be followed by the six-nation Asia Cup, in Sri Lanka and Pakistan, beginning on August 30 and the World Cup in India from October 5.
It is a home series for Afghanistan who cannot stage international cricket in their own country because of security fears.
“These three matches are a good opportunity for us to test our players in the match situation,” Babar Azam said.
The skipper sees the series as good preparation for the Asia Cup and World Cup.
Azam is the top-ranked ODI batter and leads a strong side that also boasts openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq — ranked three and four respectively.
They are backed up by a potent pace attack of Afridi, Shah and Rauf.
Afghanistan have world-class spinner Rashid Khan fit again after he withdrew from The Hundred competition in England
“Afghanistan have developed into a good side,” said Azam of a team which beat Bangladesh 2-1 in an ODI series last month.
“We are not going to take these matches lightly,” said Azam, despite Pakistan having won all four ODIs against Afghanistan since the countries first met in 2012.
“We have good players who can deal with spin bowling so it is going to be an exciting series.”
Afghanistan are captained by batter Hashmatullah Shahidi and have new faces in fast bowlers Abdul Rahman, Mohammad Saleem Safi and Wafadar Momand.
Tuesday´s match is being played in Hambantota, with the remaining two in Colombo on Thursday and Saturday.
Pakistan: Babar Azam (capt), Shadab Khan, Mohammad Rizwan, Fakhar Zaman, Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Saud Shakeel, Agha Salman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Usama Mir, Haris Rauf, Naseem Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Tayyab Tahir, Mohammad Haris, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Wasim
Afghanistan: Hashmatullah Shahidi (capt), Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Ikram Alikhil, Ibrahim Zadran, Riaz Hassan, Rahmat Shah, Shahid Kamal, Mohammad Nabi, Azmatullah Omarzai, Rashid Khan, Noor Ahmad, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Abdul Rahman, Mohammad Saleem Safi, Wafadar Momand