Pakistan’s busy, demanding, and action-packed 2023-24 international cricket season will begin on Sunday with the opening Test of the ICC World Test Championship 2023-25 against Sri Lanka in Galle. The second and final Test of the series will begin on July 24 in Colombo.
In addition to the ICC World Test Championship matches, Pakistan will compete in the ACC Asia Cup, the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2023, and the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024 during the next 12 months.
With all-format international cricket on the horizon, Babar Azam and his team will be looking for a great start in Galle.
Galle has produced mixed outcomes for Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has won four Tests to far (2009, 2012, 2014, and 2022), while Pakistan has won three – by an innings and 163 runs (2000), 10 wickets (2015), and four wickets (2022).
When Pakistan last triumphed at Galle, they chased down the 342-run mark for the loss of six wickets, with Abdullah Shafique striking a spectacular 160 not out and Babar Azam following up his 119 in the first innings with 55.
Among the bowlers, Shaheen Shah Afridi grabbed four wickets in the first innings before being hurt during the second and ruled out of the game. However, Mohammad Nawaz’s greatest bowling statistics of five for 88 and Yasir Shah’s three for 122 collaborated in the second innings to share wickets.
Thirteen members of the current squad were on the team that traveled Sri Lanka a year ago. All-rounder Aamir Jamal, mystery spinner Abrar Ahmed, and middle-order hitter Mohammad Huraira are the three newcomers.
“Really excited to be back in red-ball format and all eyes are on the Galle Test as we are prepared and ready for the challenge,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam said, adding: “We are taking one step at a time, but we have to be consistent across all formats
“One of the positives going into the Galle Test is 13 of our players were here 12 months ago. Abrar Ahmed has identified himself as a good option in our combination. I am sure this tour will be a good learning curve for him as we have high hopes from him in this and future series.
I am particularly pleased with the return of Shaheen Shah Afridi. Besides his wicket-taking abilities, his presence always motivates and lifts the side. I know Shaheen has badly missed red-ball cricket and is now hungry for Test cricket.”
Shaheen has 99 Test wickets and will attempt to become Pakistan’s fourth fastest fast bowler to reach a century of wickets. He could have accomplished this milestone last year if he hadn’t been sidelined by a knee ailment.
Shan Masood, Babar Azam, and Saud Shakeel all struck half-centuries in Hambantota, while Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Abrar Ahmed, and Aamir Jamal got wickets against the SLC Board XI.
“Our test results over the last year may not have been favorable, but we have definitely developed and grown as a side.”
The Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for ICC Men’s Cricketer of the Year for 2022 is currently held by Babar Azam. He has 3,696 runs in 47 Tests, including nine centuries and 26 half-centuries. He is the only cricketer to have finished in the top three in all formats – third in Tests, third in ODIs, and third in ODIs.