Akhtar gets support from ex-Aussie tearaway Thomo

Published: Monday, April 22, 2002, 17:10 [IST]
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Karachi: Former Australian pace king Jeff Thomson on Monday defended Shoaib Akhtar's action after the Pakistani speedster took six for 16 to smash New Zealand in the first One-day International in Karachi.

Akhtar was unplayable as he ripped through the New Zealand batting order in a display of aggressive fast bowling unseen since Thomson himself struck fear into the hearts of his opponents in the 1970s. "I think there are similarities between me and Akhtar in terms of attitude. What he loves to do is to bowl fast like me," said the silver-haired Queenslander, who is following the series as a commentator. "Akhtar is exciting to the game and the best thing about him is that when he bowls he tries to bowl quick every ball. I never bothered about inswingers, outswingers, yorkers and cared more about people who enjoyed watching express deliveries," Thomson said. Akhtar came close to breaking the 100-mile barrier in Sharjah last week when he recorded 159.5 kilometres (98.9 miles) per hour on the speed gun. His rival in the race to crack the 100-mile mark and surpass Thomson's fastest ever delivery is Australian Brett Lee, who clocked 157.9 in South Africa last month. Thomson's record stands at 161 kilometres per hour in 1975. He played 51 Tests and 50 limited over games for Australia from 1972 to 1984, and along with Dennis Lillee formed one of the most lethal bowling attacks in cricket. Akhtar's career has been dogged by allegations that his action is illegal but his bowling arm has been examined and found to have a natural kink, which makes it look like he is pegging. Thomson, 51, said it was "a bit funny and ridiculous" that the International Cricket Council (ICC), the game's governing body, had twice been forced to examine Akhtar's action and cleared him on both occasions. "I think he is just no different to Brett Lee. Lee also has a similar sort of action and their actions are just fine," said Thomson, who also had a distinctive slinging action. Lee was also reported once to the ICC last year. Thomson said Pakistan and Australia were favourites to win next year's World Cup. "Pakistan is as good as anybody if they (the players) plays as a team and they don't play as a team too often. The batsmen are too aggressive at times instead of trying to hang in there," he said. He ruled out South Africa from the list of favourites. "If you ask me, South Africa isn't good at all. I don't think they are number two. What I am saying to you is that Pakistan on ability should be the second best team to Australia."

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