Veteran Pakistan batter and former captain Azhar Ali will retire from international cricket after the third and final Test against England in Karachi starting Saturday.

The 37-year-old didn’t play the second Test – the second time in six months that he was left out of the team – signalling the end was near.

With 7,097 runs in 96 matches at an average of 42.49, Azhar Ali is set to finish as Pakistan’s fifth leading Test run-getter behind Younis Khan (10,099), Javed Miandad (8,832), Inzamam-ul-Haq (8,829) and Mohammad Yousuf (7,530).

“Everything must come to an end, so on a good note I feel – and my heart and mind understands – that this is the right time to decide that the Karachi Test will be my last for Pakistan,” an emotional Azhar told a press conference.

“It was an honour to not only play for Pakistan, but also captain the country, and I am going with fond memories,” added Azhar, who with 7,097 runs at an average of 42.49 is Pakistan’s fifth-highest Test scorer.

“It has been a great honour and privilege for me to represent my country at the highest level,” Ali said in a statement published by PCB. “Deciding on when to call it a day is always tough, but, after contemplating deeply, I realised that this is the right time for me to retire from Test cricket.

Azhar Ali statement via PCB:

“There are many people who I am grateful to in this strenuous, yet beautiful journey. I want to make a special mention of my family without whose sacrifices; I would not have been where I am today. My parents, wife, siblings, and children have been my strength throughout.

“I have been blessed to share dressing room with some of the most outstanding cricketers with whom I share a strong bond. I feel much richer by calling these people my friends. I am also blessed to have played under some wonderful coaches to whom I will always remain grateful.

“I retire from international cricket as a fulfilled cricketer who ticked most of the goals he had set for himself. Not many cricketers go on to lead their countries, and that I was able to captain Pakistan is a matter of great pride for me. From being a kid who started as a leg-spinner to becoming a mainstay in the Test batting line-up, I had the loveliest moments of my life that I will cherish forever.”

— via PCB

“Azhar Ali has been one of the most committed and loyal servants of Pakistan cricket,” PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja said in the statement. “His grit and determination have been an inspiration for many young cricketers and he is a role model for up and coming cricketers.

“While it is sad that Pakistan will not have a player of his experience in the dressing room to draw upon, it only reflects the circle of life. I hope to see Azhar continuing to play a role in the development of Pakistan cricket and sharing his vast knowledge and experience with budding cricketers.”

Azhar’s 96-match Test career – beginning at Lord’s in 2010 – was marked by Pakistan’s isolation from international cricket, which deprived him of playing any of his first 75 matches on home grounds.

Pakistan were forced to play their matches at neutral venues in the aftermath of terror attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in Lahore in 2009.

When Test cricket returned to Pakistan in December 2019, Azhar hit a century in the second Test against Sri Lanka in Karachi.

“It was massive to play at home and score that hundred,” said Azhar, who scored 19 Test centuries.

“I genuinely thought a few years back that I would not be able to play a Test at home.”

Injury-hit Pakistan face the dread of a first-ever series whitewash at home when they meet a rampant England in the third and final Test in Karachi from Saturday.

The Babar Azam-led home team have run into an England side in fine form, thriving with an aggressive approach that has earned them eight wins from their past nine Tests.

On their first Test tour of Pakistan since 2005, England won the first match by 74 runs in Rawalpindi before pulling off a tough 26-run win in the second that finished in Multan on Monday.

(With AFP inputs)