Akhtar continues recovery at Old Trafford

Published: Saturday, July 29, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Manchester:Shoaib Akhtar stepped up his bid to play a part in Pakistan's Test series against England with a workout in the Old Trafford nets here.

The 'Rawalpindi Express' missed the drawn series opener at Lord's and the ongoing second Test of the four-match series at Old Trafford because of a longstanding ankle injury.

But the fast bowler hopes to be fit enough to play a club match for Berkswell against St George's, in the third division of the Birmingham League in the English Midlands, a week on Saturday.

Akhtar, who had 30 minutes bowling under the supervision of Pakistani pace great turned team bowling coach Waqar Younis, said afterwards: "I have been running in for the last week and it's great to have nets with Waqar.

"I'm not putting pressure on my (right) ankle but I'm working really hard to come back and play for my country.

"My bone was fractured, it was a freak accident. After I had my knees operated on, my ankle twisted during the training camp for this tour, which was very disappointing.

"I'm bowling at 80 percent compared to my usual bowling," added Akhtar, who has been training at Edgbaston, the Birmingham base of English county Warwickshire where Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer made his off-field reputation.

"The staff at Edgbaston were very co-operative and my captain, coach, team-mates and physio, everyone is behind me and I'm trying my level-best for them to play a part in this series.

"Honestly speaking, if it is left to me, I'm ready to play at Leeds (where the third Test starts at Headingley on Friday) but if not, I'll definitely do my best to return in time for The Oval (where the series finale begins on August 17).

"I'm not one of those guys who likes to sit out and watch," insisted Akhtar, who could only look on enviously as England's spearhead fast bowler Stephen Harmison took six for 19 on the first day of the Old Trafford Test.

"It's very frustrating and after watching Steve Harmison take all those wickets, I felt I could have matched him," Akhtar said on Friday.

Meanwhile Waqar refused to get carried away by one net session.

"He (Akhtar) looked well in the nets but, since he has not played for the last five months, we want a gradual comeback and we don't want to rush him. I don't think he has any chance of playing in the Leeds Test."

Akhtar could return to Pakistan action in the tourists' two-day game against West Indies A at Shenley, north of London, which starts on August 12 - five days before The Oval climax.

The second day of the Shenley match will also be Akhtar's 31st birthday.

He has not played since appearing in the first Test against India at Karachi in February.

Last year he had a leading role in the home Test series against England, taking 17 wickets as Pakistan won a three-match encounter 2-0.

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