Woolmer grateful for England ~~A~~ encounter

Published: Sunday, July 2, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Canterbury:Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer was happy to see his bowlers being given a thorough workout by England 'A' in the tourists' final first-class warm-up match before next week's first Test against England at Lord's.

The hosts will resume on the second day of this four-day match here Friday on 268 for three with 'A' team captain and opening batsman Robert Key 128 not out at his Kent home ground.

But, after losing the toss, Pakistan's probable first Test bowling attack performed creditably on an ideal batting pitch with Mohammad Sami taking one for 36 in 14 overs and fellow quick Umar Gul one for 39 in 15.

"We've got to bowl in these conditions, I can't see them being different to this (in the Test match)," Woolmer told reporters.

The Pakistan coach was in understandably nostalgic mood, having played here for Kent in the 1970s and 1980s.

"It's fantastic," the former England batsman added. "In the middle, in line with the sightscreen, you knew that on one of those pitches if you got in you could get a hundred."

Looking ahead, Woolmer indicated the Canterbury side did not represent Pakistan's first Test line-up.

"We wanted Mohammad Yousuf to play, Inzamam-ul-Haq to play. Shoaib Malik's carrying a niggle after he got a hundred at Leicester (where Pakistan won a three-day match by eight wickets) so we decided not to go in with the whole whang," he said.

"We've just got to get used to English conditions which at Leicester proved they are not as fast as everyone thinks they are. They are slow, slow pitches.

"Modern tours are about just getting batsmen into form, bowlers into some sort of rhythm and try to hit your straps when the adrenalin flows."

Woolmer was upbeat about Kamran Akmal's prospects of playing at Lord's on Thursday.

The only wicket-keeper in Pakistan's squad sustained a left index finger injury before lunch and did not return for the rest of the first day, Faisal Iqbal deputising behind the stumps.

"It's just slightly bruised," said Woolmer of Akmal's finger. "He's got full movement, there's no break.

"Zulqarnain Haider, who has kept for the A team, is on standby and he's training every day."

And the coach remained optimistic about pace spearhead Shoaib Akhtar, out with an ankle injury, featuring at some stage during the four-Test series.

"If we can get Shoaib ready for later in the tour that would be nice. There's always a chance."

Key, who has not played for England in over a year and started this season sluggishly after shoulder surgery, did his chances of a recall no harm by batting through the day after winning the toss.

"It was a pretty flat pitch, one of those where if you got in it was going to be pretty hard to get out," he said.

"What they (Pakistan) did brilliantly was to get the ball to reverse swing. They showed some class with the way they got the ball to do stuff on a wicket where there was no conventional swing and no seam movement."

Key's maiden first-class hundred of the season came on the same day that England captain Michael Vaughan's longstanding knee problem ruled him out of the tour of Australia later this year.

But Key was not getting carried away by thoughts of playing in the opening match of England's Ashes defence at Brisbane's Gabba ground in November.

"There are still quite a few people in and around the team as well," he said.

"My name will be amongst them somewhere, it just depends on where, but with a good end to the summer you never know."

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