Akhtar could return for final Test: Woolmer

Published: Sunday, August 13, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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Shenley:Pakistan fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar could return to action for the final Test against England next week, coach Bob Woolmer said, after coming through eight overs against a West Indies A side.

The 'Rawalpindi Express', who has been gradually returning to competitive cricket after a stress fracture of the left ankle, captured one wicket for 44 runs in the Pakistan tour match at Shenley, north of London.

It might be "asking too much" to expect Akhtar or fellow bowler Mohammad Asif, who flew back to Pakistan with an elbow injury last month, to leap straight back into Test action, Woolmer said.

This was especially true with England having taken an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the series ahead of the fourth and final Test beginning at the Oval on Thursday.

"It is less necessary to field such players after we have lost the Test series," Woolmer said.

"But that doesn't mean we don't want to win the Oval Test. We want to win the last Test to prove our critics wrong.

"I don't think we have done badly, England played better."

Asked if Akhtar, 31, could be risked, Woolmer said it was still possible.

"If it's necessary," he said. "I wonder if it is necessary, just for the sake of winning a Test then why can't others who are match fit and doing well not do that?

"Shoaib had a stress fracture and what he has to do is to play little bit of cricket, and the perfect scenario I see for him is to get fit for the five one day internationals, the ICC Trophy then the home series against the West Indies. That is really the sort of path I want for him.

"I don't want to make this judgement before talking to him. If he bowls 15-20 overs by Sunday then I will ask him because he will be in a better position to tell.

"Today he looked trim and slim but he hasn't bowled for six months," Woolmer said.

"If we play him in the Test and breaks down then people will say that we played him early. We don't want to rush him into Test cricket, for the sake of Pakistan cricket and for the sake of Shoaib's future."

Asked again if Akhtar would be considered for the Test, Woolmer replied: "If he says that he is fit and wants to play then the judgement will be ours."

The paceman's last Test was the series-clinching third Test against India at Karachi in January and February.

Last year Akhtar 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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