Pakistan captain confirms the visitors will field the same XI which played the tour game against Northamptonshire.
Sarfraz Ahmed says that it will be an honour to play a part in Ireland’s maiden foray into Test cricket, and that Pakistan are ready to compete hard in unfamiliar conditions.
“I think it's a great achievement for Ireland cricket and Ireland’s cricket board to play Test cricket,” Sarfraz said on the eve of Ireland’s debut Test, starting on Friday 11 May in Malahide, Dublin. “First of all, congratulations to my side and (to Ireland on) behalf of the Pakistan team as well.
“It is a big honour for me and my team to play the historic Test match. We're ready to play, it will be a great match.”
The Pakistan captain held out hope that the magnitude of the occasion would help boost cricket in Ireland and make it a mass sport. “It's the first Test match in Ireland and everybody will definitely be watching it,” he said. “I think after this Test match, more cricketers will come to play and kids will also come forward to play cricket as well.”
Pakistan played two tour matches – against Kent and Northamptonshire – ahead of the Test match. Against Kent, Pakistan struggled in cold and overcast conditions but they fared much better in the second game, sealing a nine-wicket win.
Sarfraz said that Pakistan would field the same XI that beat Northamptonshire, meaning Test debuts for Imam-ul-Haq and Faheem Ashraf.
“In the first match against Kent, they both played together (Imam and Azhar Ali, the openers). We were seeing who was playing well. So nowadays, we've seen, the whole team management has seen, that Imam-ul-Haq batted well, he scored two fifties in the practice matches, that's why we are going with him.”
On Shadab Khan, who is touring as Pakistan’s frontline spinner despite little first-class experience as replacement for the injured Yasir Shah, Sarfraz was effusive: “Definitely, Yasir Shah is a very experienced bowler and we will miss him a lot. But the good thing is that Shadab bowled really well in the last two matches and he got 10 wickets. Hopefully, Shadab will bowl well in the Test match as well.”
Khan returned 6/77 and 4/80 against Northamptonshire.
Ahmed also suggested that after playing in alien conditions in the two tour games, the visitors were ready for the Test match.
“We tried our level best to play more games in practice matches but we played two games in different weathers. The first match against Kent, it was too cold, whereas against Northamptonshire it was too hot! So it is very difficult to say. When we came here, two days it was very cold, but today it is very sunny!
“So, yes, we had a lot of practice, but in the last match, our practice was complete. We batted well, our bowlers bowled well. We are ready to play.”
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