Fit Shoaib gets selectors~~ nod for England tour

Published: Thursday, May 18, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Lahore:Pakistan named Shoaib Akhtar in their preliminary 21-man squad for next month's tour of England, marking the fiery fast bowler's return from injury.

The 30-year-old, plagued by numerous injuries in his eight-year international career, has resumed bowling after undergoing twin knee surgery in February this year.

He had not played for Pakistan since breaking down during the final Test against India in Karachi four months ago.

"We need our best fast bowlers for the tour of England so Akhtar is back," chief selector Wasim Bari told AFP on Thursday.

"But he will not be an automatic choice and will have to prove his fitness in the conditioning camp."

Akhtar, who has 165 wickets in 42 Tests and 199 in 129 one-day internationals, is seen as Pakistan's main weapon on the tour of England, where Pakistan have not lost a series since 1982.

Akhtar Tuesday vowed to give his best on the England tour, claiming he was fully fit. He took 17 wickets in Pakistan's 2-0 win over England when they toured here last year.

Pakistan are scheduled to play four Tests and five one-day games on their tour of England, with the first Test starting at Lord's in London on July 13.

Akhtar's new ball partner Mohammad Sami also staged a comeback after poor form axed him from the team's tour of Sri Lanka in March this year.

Taufiq Umer returned from the sidelines and was named among three openers in the preliminary squad, in what Pakistani officials hope is a solution to an ongoing top order problem.

Bari said he hoped the openers would rise to the task.

"You need batsmen with good technique as the ball moves in English conditions so we need very good openers who can cope under the conditions," said Bari, a former Pakistan captain and wicket-keeper.

The preliminary squad will assemble in Lahore for a conditioning camp from May 25 to June 5.

Former South African player Jonty Rhodes will act as a fielding coach in stage two of the camp, to be held from the second week of next month.

"After consultation with captain Inzamam-ul Haq and coach Bob Woolmer we will announce the 16-member squad on June 9," said Bari.

Preliminary squad: Inzamam-ul-Haq, Salman Butt, Imran Farhat, Taufiq Umer, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Faisal Iqbal, Shahid Afridi, Bazid Khan, Asim Kamal, Kamran Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Akhtar, Danish Kaneria, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Asif, Rao Iftikhar, Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul, Zulqarnain Haider.

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