Pakistan~~s Rana Naved ruled out England tour

Published: Monday, July 10, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Canterbury:Pakistan suffered a major blow just days before the first Test at Lord's when pace bowler Rana Naved-ul-Hasan was ruled out of their tour of England.

"He's going home today (Monday) and leaving the tour because of a groin injury," Pakistan tour manager Zaheer Abbas told AFP by telephone. "We are not expecting him to return."

Naved's exit left Pakistan's pace reserves at breaking point with Umar Gul and Abdul Razzaq the last men standing amongst their frontline seamers.

Spearhead fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar is a currently out with an ankle injury and, during their drawn warm-up match with England A, concluded at Canterbury on Sunday, fast bowler Mohammad Asif needed an injection into his right elbow and sat out the last day's play when Mohammad Sami sustained a knee injury while fielding.

"It's a big disappointment for Pakistan because he's done so well when he's over here," Pakistan batting great Zaheer added of the 28-year-old Naved's absence from the four-Test and five-match one-day series.

Naved sustained the injury while bowling for Sussex where his 34 wickets in five matches at a cost of just over 15 apiece played a major role in the south coast side's climb to second place in England's County Championship.

But his injury led Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq to accuse Sussex of over-bowling Rana although the county insisted they had "done all we can" to ensure he stayed fit while he was with them.

Zaheer was unable to confirm press reports from Pakistan indicating Rana would need surgery, saying: "He's going to see the doctors. Maybe (he will undergo an operation) in Australia or South Africa, but I just don't know."

Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer said last week that Rana would miss the first Test, which starts at Lord's on Thursday, but the tourists had hoped the seamer would feature at some stage during the series.

Meanwhile Zaheer confirmed that uncapped 23-year-old left-arm medium pacer Samiullah Niazi was being flown in as cover but added it was too early to say if further replacements would be needed.

Although Woolmer was hopeful of Asif, who has taken 25 wickets at only 20 runs apiece in his five Tests, being fit in time for the first Test, a cautious Zaheer said: "The players have practised very hard but we still do not know if some of them will be fit."

England too have a depleted pace attack with star all-rounder Andrew Flintoff (ankle) and Matthew Hoggard (hand) out of the first Test while fellow Ashes-winner Simon Jones (knee) is set to miss the entire series.

"Both teams are missing key players, it's a problem," Zaheer admitted.

Rana has played eight Tests, taking just 16 wickets although not because of lack of effort and, after his start to the season with Sussex, many were predicting that the conscientious seamer, who never lacks for effort, would play a major role against England.

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