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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Pakistan v New Zealand: Shaheen Afridi set for Test debut in Abu Dhabi

Injury to Mohammad Abbas has given the talented teenage bowler his chance in the series-decider in the UAE capital

Shaheen Afridi starred for Pakistan A against England Lions. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Shaheen Afridi starred for Pakistan A against England Lions. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Teenage pace bowler Shaheen Afridi will cap his meteoric rise with a Test debut for Pakistan in the third match against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi starting on Monday.

A shoulder injury to medium pacer Mohammad Abbas in the second Test in Dubai has paved the way for Shaheen to make his mark in the last act of a gripping series which stands at 1-1.

"If I get a chance I will do my best," Shaheen told AFP on Saturday. "I always had belief in my ability and in my hard work although I didn't expect my chance will come in Tests so early."

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Shaheen, 18, made his mark in a domestic match in September last year, claiming eight wickets for just 39 runs, the best figures by a Pakistan bowler on first-class debut.

His rise to the Pakistan team began at home in Landi Kotal, a town in the Khyber District, close to the border with Afghanistan, where his elder brother Riaz who played one Test for Pakistan in 200, gave him his first bowling lessons.

"My brother was my role model who taught me how to bowl and how to approach cricket with a positive frame of mind," said Shaheen. "I owe my success to him."

Since his impressive first-class debut, Shaheen has continued to attract attention, finishing with 12 wickets at the ICC Under-19 World Cup in New Zealand this year and then grabbing a five wicket haul in a Pakistan Super League match.

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Shaheen graduated to Pakistan colours in the home Twenty20 series against the West Indies in March, but real success came against New Zealand in last month's one-day series in which he claimed back-to-back four wicket hauls and finished as man-of-the-series.

Just like Wasim Akram, Shaheen has also played just three first class matches before his first Test.

"Test cricket is the ultimate so matching the great Wasim's feat will motivate me a lot and just like I do in limited over matches, I will try to take wickets for my team to win the series," Shaheen said.

After his early form last month, Pakistan's selection committee, headed by Inzamam-ul-Haq, named Shaheen in the Test squad for the New Zealand series with a view to developing him rather than playing him.

But Shaheen pressed his claims further when he took seven wickets - five of them clean bowled - in Pakistan A's win over England Lions in their four-day match in Abu Dhabi last month. That performance and Abbas's injury pushed his chance earlier than expected.

The three-match series is currently tied at 1-1 with New Zealand winning the first Test by four runs in Abu Dhabi and Pakistan achieving an innings and 16 runs win in the second in Dubai.