Akhtar, Lee observe speed limit; wickets more crucial

Published: Monday, February 10, 2003, 23:53 [IST]
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Johannesburg: Speed kings Shoaib Akhtar of Pakistan and Australia's Brett Lee clash in a key World Cup game on Tuesday but both have downplayed any prospect of a pace war. The duo said they would rather concentrate on grabbing wickets instead of trying to prove who could bowl faster. "I know I am required to keep the batsmen under pressure by taking wickets," said Shoaib, nicknamed the 'Rawalpindi Express'. "I'm seen as an aggressive wicket-taking bowler so if I need to sacrifice speed for wickets I don't mind. "It's not that I won't bowl fast. I have noticed that when you trouble a batsman with pace, send down a few short balls, he usually gets out next ball." Lee indicated he will follow the same policy when the match gets underway at the Wanderers, regarded as one of the fastest wickets in South Africa. "Of course I want to bowl fast, but getting wickets is more important," he said. "Pace remains my main weapon but I also look up to guys like Glenn McGrath, who bowl line and length and take wickets which helps the team win. I must also do that." Shoaib beat Lee to the magical 160-kilometre an hour barrier last year during a One- day International against New Zealand in Lahore. Lee's fastest delivery has been timed at 159kmh during a Test match at Cape Town early last year. With both bowlers running up top speeds, promoters arranged a contest between the two in India, but it fell through after the Pakistan Cricket Board denied Shoaib permission to take part. Former Pakistani captain Imran Khan, himself a pace bowler of repute, said taking wickets should remain a fast bowler's top priority. "Lee and Shoaib generate excitement in the crowds with their pace, but they must not forget the golden rule of maintaining a good line and length to be more effective," Imran said. The outspoken Shoaib insists he and Lee are different bowlers. "I am a match winner and he is not," he said. "Only when he starts taking wickets can he be compared to me." Australian captain Ricky Ponting acknowledged the threat for his batsmen from Shoaib. "He's just a very, very dangerous bowler," Ponting said of the Pakistani. "We know that we need to get through those tough spells and hopefully he does not do too much damage." Both Shoaib and Lee may have little in common except bowling fast, but remain good friends. "He (Shoaib) is a great mate of mine and I love watching him bowl," Lee said. "There are people who might try and stop him but they should not," he said about speculation over Shoaib's suspect action. Lee himself has seen his action challenged and appeared rattled when England's Barmy Army chanted "chucker" whenever he ran into bowl in the recent Ashes series. Shoaib described Lee as "sweet" and a man who loves to share a joke. Veteran Pakistani seamer Wasim Akram, playing in his fifth World Cup, advised Lee and Shoaib not to sacrifice pace. "When we won the 1992 World Cup the main thing our captain Imran Khan stressed was to bang it in since speed is always a fast bowler's weapon," Wasim said. "Like the crowds, I too love to watch the two bowl fast. They should not cut down on pace since wickets come with that."

Bowlers hold the key as Australia and Pakistan collide

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