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Pakistan pick four uncapped players for New Zealand ODIs

Mohammad Wasim celebrates the dismissal of Shimron Hetmyer Randy Brooks/AFP via Getty Images

Pakistan have named four uncapped players - Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Wasim, Shahnawaz Dahani and Zahid Mahmood - in their 20-member squad for the three-match home ODI series against New Zealand.

Iftikhar Ahmed and Khushdil Shah have been recalled while Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Sohaib Maqsood, who were part of the ODI series against England in July have been dropped. Haris Sohail, who withdrew from that series having sustained a hamstring injury, has also been left out.

"The series against New Zealand is extremely important for Pakistan as the matches are part of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023 qualification," chief selector Mohammad Wasim said. "While we have tried to put together a formidable and a balanced unit, we have continued to ensure that we give opportunities to high performing players while looking into the future so that we can develop a strong bench-strength."

Wicketkeeper-batter Haris was impressive in the 50-over domestic Pakistan Cup, where he made 289 runs in nine matches playing for champions Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, at an average of 41.28, making a century and two fifties. Fast bowler Wasim, who made his Pakistan debut in the T20I series against West Indies recently, has now earned a call-up to the ODI squad too. He was particularly impressive in the first T20I where he picked up one wicket in two overs in the rained-out encounter.

"Mohammad Rizwan remains the first-choice wicketkeeper, as such, it has been decided to include 20-year-old Mohammad Haris in place of Sarfaraz Ahmed. This is not only to reward Haris for his outstanding domestic performances in the previous season, but also to give him a taste and flair of international cricket along with its rigours and demands and to ensure that we continue to groom young wicketkeepers who are fit and ready to step up when the opportunity presents itself."

Legspinner Mahmood has been outstanding in the domestic circuit for Southern Punjab over the last two seasons. In 2020-21, he picked up 52 wickets in 10 matches in the first-class Quaid-e-Azam Trophy and 19 wickets in 10 matches in the Pakistan Cup. He was called up to the Pakistan squad for the T20Is against South Africa earlier this year, and in the solitary match he played, he picked up three wickets in his four overs.

Dahani had a dream debut season in PSL 2021, taking 20 wickets in 11 matches. He seems to have impressed the selectors with his ability to provide breakthroughs in regular intervals, which also made him Multan Sultans' trump card in the tournament.

Meanwhile, Iftikhar returns to the ODI set-up for the first time since the Super Over encounter against Zimbabwe in November 2020 in Rawalpindi. Khushdil's only ODI appearance was also in the same match.

"Middle-order has remained our concern and, as such, after trying a few options, we have decided to give another run to Iftikhar Ahmed and Khushdil Shah," Wasim said. "The two batters have played sufficient 50-over cricket at the domestic level and boast the required firepower to utilise the slog overs. We are optimistic they will come good in home conditions."

This will be New Zealand first tour of Pakistan in 18 years. The tour starts with three ODIs in Rawalpindi scheduled on September 17, 19 and 21 and culminates with five T20Is in Lahore. Crowds up to 25% capacity will also be allowed in the stadium, which means the ODIs taking place in Rawalpindi will be open to 4500 spectators each.