Faheem Ashraf to join Pakistan squad after clearing rapid antigen test


He had tested positive for Covid-19 on Wednesday, but is now clear to play the Karachi Test

Faheem Ashraf has cleared his rapid antigen test for Covid-19, less than 24 hours after he was found positive for the virus. Ashraf, who had tested positive on Wednesday, was initially supposed to undergo a five-day isolation period, but has now been given the go-ahead to join the Pakistan squad ahead of the second Test against Australia in Karachi.

Ashraf, an integral part of the Test side, had missed the first match in Rawalpindi due to a hamstring injury he picked up towards the end of his PSL season with Islamabad United. With him back in the fold, Pakistan will have more balance in their XI, as Ashraf can bat at No.7 and provide handy support to their four-man attack.

Ashraf’s absence in the Rawalpindi Test was one of the main reasons Pakistan opted to tweak the pitch, as they looked to nullify Australia’s pace attack.

Pakistan called up Iftikhar Ahmed and Naseem Shah in the first Test to cover for the absences of Ashraf and Hasan Ali – the latter, a key member of their pace attack. Hasan missed out because of an adductor strain, which he also picked up during the PSL. Both Iftikhar and Naseem played, though the former — likely a direct replacement for Ashraf – only bowled three overs.

With Ashraf joining the squad, Pakistan are confident that Hasan will also be fit for the second Test, allowing them to bring back an opening pair that took over 80 Test wickets in 2021 and were the second and third-highest wicket-takers for the year. The rest of Pakistan’s squad returned negative tests, meaning that Haris Rauf is back in contention for selection. Rauf missed the first Test after testing positive for Covid-19.

Ashraf has played 13 Tests at an average of 35.11 scoring 4 half-centuries including his 91 against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui and taking 22 wickets at a bowling average of 34.09.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent

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