Reclaiming the Milestone: Shaheen’s Journey to 100 Test Wickets
Shaheen Shah Afridi, the remarkable strike bowler, is set to mark his return to the Test cricket arena after a year-long absence due to an injury. The dynamic player will be striving to secure his 100th Test wicket during the upcoming match against Sri Lanka in Galle, commencing this Sunday.
During a previous encounter at the same ground, Shaheen was halted in his tracks with an injury when he landed awkwardly at the boundary line while attempting to prevent the ball from crossing. Now, with his triumphant comeback, he aims to cross the significant milestone of 100 Test wickets.
“Injuries are an inevitable part of an athlete’s journey, but I’m thrilled to be back,” shared Shaheen with AFP, reflecting on his recovery process after Pakistan’s two-day warm-up fixture against a Sri Lanka Cricket President’s XI, which concluded in a draw at Hambantota.
He expressed his eagerness to achieve the century of Test wickets, emphasizing the significance of this feat. The extended period of waiting has been a challenge, but Shaheen acknowledged that time away from cricket has provided him with valuable opportunities for growth and learning.
The Path to the World Test Championship Final
Both Pakistan and Sri Lanka find themselves in a state of transition, striving to reclaim their positions as Test cricket powerhouses. Their journey begins with the pursuit of qualification for the upcoming International Cricket Council (ICC) World Test Championship final, scheduled for 2025.
As of the latest ICC Test rankings, the hosts hold the seventh position, while the visitors rank sixth. The forthcoming series marks the start of their arduous quest to ascend the rankings and secure a spot in the prestigious championship final.
In the previous year’s series, Pakistan emerged victorious in the first Test by a margin of four wickets. However, Sri Lanka retaliated strongly in the second Test, winning by a comprehensive 246-run margin, effectively leveling the series. Both matches were fiercely contested on the grounds of Galle, but unfortunately, Shaheen was sidelined due to his injury, unable to contribute to his team’s efforts.
Shaheen’s Stellar Performance in the Warm-up Match
Shaheen Afridi showcased his exceptional skills and unparalleled pace during the recent warm-up match. Displaying lethal seam movement, he bowled with blistering pace, claiming three crucial wickets for just 36 runs in a span of 12 overs. This remarkable performance played a significant role in Pakistan’s dismissal of the opposition for a mere 196 runs.
“I’m incredibly excited to make my Test comeback on the very same ground where I sustained my injury,” expressed Shaheen, highlighting the emotional significance of this match for him.
Sri Lanka’s Squad Adjustments
In preparation for the first Test, Sri Lanka finds itself faced with the task of replacing Asitha Fernando, who has unfortunately contracted dengue fever. The uncapped left-arm pacer, Dilshan Madushanka, is expected to step in as his replacement.
Dilshan Madushanka, a 22-year-old talent, has made a name for himself in white-ball cricket, having already represented Sri Lanka in six ODIs and eleven T20Is. Eagerly eyeing his Test debut, he finds himself included in Sri Lanka’s squad of 16 for the first Test. Madushanka’s recent outstanding performance as the Player of the Match in the 2023 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Qualifier final against the Netherlands further solidifies his credentials, where he claimed three crucial wickets for just 18 runs in an impressive new-ball spell.
Additionally, Lakshitha Manasinghe, an off-spinner, has also been named as a fresh face in the host’s squad. However, he faces tough competition from other spinners in contention for a spot in the final XI, including Prabath Jayasuriya, Ramesh Mendis, the recalled Praveen Jayawickrama, Kamindu Mendis, and middle-order batsman Dhananjaya de Silva.
Dhananjaya de Silva, deemed the successor to the Test captaincy, has been appointed as the deputy to Dimuth Karunaratne. While Karunaratne is recovering from a hamstring injury and had initially expressed his desire to step down ahead of the new WTC cycle, the selectors requested him to continue leading the team. As a contingency measure for Karunaratne’s injury, Pathum Nissanka, who has primarily featured in white-ball cricket since his last Test against Australia in Galle in July 2022, has been called back into the squad.
Pakistan for both Tests:
- Babar Azam (captain)
- Abdullah Shafique
- Mohammad Huraira
- Shan Masood
- Saud Shakeel
- Mohammad Rizwan (vice-captain/wk)
- Sarfraz Ahmed (wicket-keeper)
- Salman Ali Agha
- Mohammad Nawaz
- Aamer Jamal
- Abrar Ahmed
- Hassan Ali
- Naseem Shah
- Nauman Ali
- Shaheen Shah Afridi
Sri Lanka for first Test:
- Dimuth Karunaratne (captain)
- Nishan Madushka
- Kusal Mendis
- Angelo Mathews
- Dinesh Chandimal
- Dhananjaya de Silva (vice-captain)
- Pathum Nissanka
- Sadeera Samarawickrama (wk)
- Kamindu Mendis
- Ramesh Mendis
- Prabath Jayasuriya
- Praveen Jayawickrama
- Kasun Rajitha
- Dilshan Madushanka
- Vishwa Fernando
- Lakshitha Manasinghe
In conclusion, the highly-anticipated Test series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka holds immense significance for Shaheen Shah Afridi as he makes his return to the long format of the game. His pursuit of the coveted 100th Test wicket promises to be a captivating journey. Simultaneously, both teams aim to secure their positions in the World Test Championship final, setting the stage for thrilling cricketing action in Galle.