Sarfaraz Ahmed was picked in the XI for the first Test against New Zealand, turning out in the whites for Pakistan for the first time since January 2019. He replaced Mohammad Rizwan, without a fifty in his last 12 innings.

Pakistan dropped their T20I opener, Rizwan, for the first Test against New Zealand in Karachi on Monday after a string of low scores, instead giving former skipper Sarfaraz an opportunity after nearly four years. Shahid Afridi, newly installed as Pakistan’s interim chair of selectors, has had an instant impact on the XI, with captain Babar Azam confirming that the former all-rounder had had an input on the team picked.

Rizwan’s 2016 Test debut was his only appearance for three years before coming back into contention in November 2019. Pakistan were looking for a replacement for Sarfaraz, who was removed as captain in May 2019, with Azhar Ali replacing him. He was left out for his team’s next Test series, against Australia in November 2019, allowing for Rizwan’s recall.

Things have now come full circle, with Sarfaraz making a return to the Test side in place of Rizwan. Sarfaraz is playing his 50th game, and his first in Pakistan. The 35-year-old is in the midst of an impressive run of form, scoring 394 runs in eight games at the 2022-23 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, averaging 43.77 with one hundred and three fifties.

His return sparked a number of reactions from journalists and experts on social media.