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It falls to Shahid Afridi to revive Pakistan team

Pakistan one-day captain Shahid Afridi said he was looking forward to getting back to cricket despite the "challenge" of leading a team engulfed in a spot-fixing scandal. Full coverage

cricket Updated: Sep 01, 2010 19:34 IST

Pakistan one-day captain Shahid Afridi said he was looking forward to getting back to cricket despite the "challenge" of leading a team engulfed in a spot-fixing scandal.

Pakistan are due to play Somerset here on Thursday in their first game since several members of the side were implicated in a betting scam.

Afridi, speaking to reporters at Somerset's County Ground on Wednesday, said: "We are definitely looking forward to getting back to cricket. We did a very good practice session yesterday (Tuesday).

"Myself and the coach (Waqar Younis) are trying to keep morale high. It's always very difficult in these conditions against a good team but they are all really focused."

The News of the World alleged on Sunday that bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, as well as Test captain Salman Butt, were involved in a plan to deliberately bowl no-balls in the fourth Test against England last week as part of a scheme devised by a 'fixer' it had contacted in a 'sting' operation.

Afridi didn't play in that match, having resigned the Test captaincy after Pakistan's 150-run loss in the first of two Tests against Australia at Lord's in July.

But the leg-spinning all-rounder remained captain of Pakistan's one-day and Twenty20 teams.

He has now returned for the limited overs leg of the tour, which sees Pakistan play two Twenty20 internationals against England -- the reigning world champions in that format -- in Cardiff on Sunday and Tuesday, before the teams contest a five-match one-day series.

Afridi insisted his players would be able to put the furore to one side and concentrate on the task at hand when they faced Somerset.

"What has happened has gone," he said. "We are here to play good cricket. It's a big challenge for me personally, playing in English conditions is always difficult.

"We are all looking forward to it. It has been really difficult but we can forget everything, get out, play the cricket and entertain the people."

There were protests outside Pakistan's hotel in London, where they lost the fourth Test by an innings and 225-runs -- their heaviest Test loss -- and with it the series 3-1.

But there have been no protests at their Taunton hotel and Somerset chief executive Richard Gould was confident Thursday's match would pass off without spectator unrest.

"We are not anticipating anything of that order," Gould told reporters. "We've got a really good family atmosphere generally in the ground and I think that's going to be all-pervading tomorrow (Thursday).

"I suspect there might be a little bit of humour thrown in, with a few comments, but we won't let anything go beyond light-hearted banter."

Pakistan will be without Aamer, Asif and Butt after the players left the squad on Wednesday for a meeting in London on Thursday with the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board and the Pakistan high commissioner (ambassador) in London on Thursday.