Injured Shoaib Akhtar hopeful of early return

Published: Thursday, June 8, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Karachi:Pakistani fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar said he hoped to return to active cricket earlier than first feared and was keen to bowl on England's seam-friendly pitches.

Akhtar, who was already mourning the death of a close friend, received more bad news on Wednesday when an MRI scan of his injured ankle showed a fracture sustained last year had not healed.

He was advised not to bowl for four to six weeks, which means he will miss the best part of Pakistan's series against England which gets underway with the first Test at Lord's in London from July 13.

"It's a bad week for me. First I lost a close friend and now got a bad news that my injury has not healed although I still feel no pain and can jog for hours," Akhtar told AFP in an interview on Thursday.

"But a bad news for me is a good news for the English batsmen. I will do my best to recover in time to at least play two Tests," said Akhtar, eyeing the third Test in Leeds for his return.

Pakistan will play four Tests, a Twenty20 match and five one-day internationals on their tour of England.

The 30-year-old fast bowler, plagued by various injuries during his eight-year career, underwent twin knee surgery in Australia in February after playing the third and final Test against India in January this year.

It forced him to miss Pakistan's tour of Sri Lanka in March-April.

Akhtar said he played the Indian series against doctor's advice.

"I carried that ankle injury from the series against England but I continued to play. Even after the operations I was feeling well before I twisted the ankle earlier this month."

Pakistan's English coach Bob Woolmer said the loss of Akhtar, who took 17 wickets to help his side beat England 2-0 when they toured last year, was a shame.

"It is obviously very disappointing for us but we have coped without Akhtar in the recent past and will have to do so again on the England tour," said Woolmer, referring to his absence on last year's India and West Indies tours.

Pakistan selectors are due to announce a 16-man squad on Thursday or Friday and will decide whether to field Akhtar in the latter part of the tour after another assessment on his injury.

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