Pakistan captain Babar to miss first New Zealand test due to injury

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Third T20 International - England v Pakistan

(Reuters) - Pakistan captain Babar Azam has been ruled out of the first test against New Zealand in Mount Maunganui starting Dec. 26 due to a fractured thumb, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said on Monday.

Babar, 26, sustained the injury during a practice session in Queenstown last week and was ruled out of the ongoing three-match Twenty20 series. Opening batsman Imam-Ul-Haq will also miss the game after fracturing his left thumb during a net session.

Both players are yet to return to the nets with the team’s medical staff closely monitoring their progress, the PCB said.

Mohammad Rizwan will become Pakistan's 33rd test captain when he leads the side in Babar's absence.

"Although it will be nearly two weeks since Babar's injury when the first test starts, it will be hard on him and the team to play him without any net sessions," Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said.

"I remain confident and optimistic that other players will rise to the occasion in Mount Maunganui."

Pakistan have included uncapped batsman Imran Butt in their 15-man squad for the first test.

The 24-year-old top-order batsman struck 934 runs at an average of over 62 with four centuries and three half-centuries in the 2019-20 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan's domestic first-class tournament.

Pakistan squad for first test: Mohammad Rizwan (c), Abid Ali, Azhar Ali, Faheem Ashraf, Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, Imran Butt, Mohammad Abbas, Naseem Shah, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shan Masood, Sohail Khan and Yasir Shah.

(Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by Stephen Coates)