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Akhtar glad to be in 'lethal' Pakistan line-up

india Updated: Aug 29, 2006 13:12 IST
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Akhtar said he was looking forward to playing his part in a "lethal" Pakistan one-day team during their forthcoming series against England.

The 'Rawalpindi Express' marked his return to international cricket after a six-month absence with one for 31 as Pakistan, in their maiden Twenty20 international, beat England by five wickets at the Nevil Ground in England on Monday.

Akhtar, who'd been sidelined with a stress fracture of his left ankle, last played international cricket in February when Pakistan beat India by 341-runs for a series-clinching third Test victory at Karachi.

Together with fellow quick Rana Naved (groin), as well as opening batsman Shoaib Malik (elbow), he missed the whole of Pakistan's 3-0 Test match series defeat against England which concluded with the tourists' dramatic fourth Test forfeit at The Oval after they'd been penalised for ball-tampering.

"It was all right. After a six-month lay-off, to come back in a Twenty20 is never easy," Akhtar told reporters when asked about his Bristol performance.

However, the 31-year-old paceman, for all his time out of the spotlight, was soon bowling in excess of 80mph.

"Just finding my rhythm is more important and I need to do that as quickly as possible," added Akhtar ahead of Pakistan's five-match one-day series against England starting with Wednesday's day/night clash at Cardiff.

And he insisted the furore caused by events at The Oval on August 20, with ball-tampering and disrepute charges against Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq still outstanding, had not deflected the tourists from their on-field targets.

"We're a happy bunch of lads. We love playing cricket, we love playing for our country and we enjoy the game. We're here to win," said Akhtar, a veteran of 42 Tests and 129 one-dayers.

Fast bowler Mohammad Asif, who only returned from an elbow injury at The Oval, took two wickets in three balls at Bristol to get rid of Kevin Pietersen and England captain Andrew Strauss for nought apiece.

"We've got a full, fresh side now. We've got our bowlers back, myself, Asif and Rana," Akhtar said.

"Our batsmen are getting runs and we've got people who can hit the ball really hard at the end.

"We are a very lethal one-day team right now and we would just like to continue winning."

England's defeat - their seventh in as many shorter matches against Test match opponents this season after a Twenty20 and 5-0 one-day series reverse against Sri Lanka - was made worse by the announcement that spearhead fast bowler Stephen Harmison would miss the one-day series with a back problem.

But there was consolation to be had in the England senior debuts of fast bowler Stuart Broad, denied a hat-trick by man-of-the-match Shahid Afridi, and all-rounder Michael Yardy, who scored 24 not out and took a wicket with his left-arm spin.

Experienced opener Marcus Trescothick, who top-scored for his England with 53, said his side's lack of runs was compounded by Afridi's whirlwind 28 off 10 balls which swung the match back Pakistan's way after Broad's double strike had reduced the visitors to 23 for two inside four overs.

"We were probably 20 or 30 runs light," Trescothick explained.

"That innings from Afridi was quite crucial at the time," the left-hander added. "Afridi is a little bit hit and miss at times, with all due respect to him. But when he is good like that he is destructive and can take the game away from you very quickly."

Trescothick, speaking before Harmison's withdrawal was announced, praised the performance of 20-year-old Broad who, in the Durham quick's absence, is likely to take the new-ball alongside veteran paceman Darren Gough during the one-day series.

"I think he's a good prospect - and the way he approached it and the fashion he bowled in was encouraging.

"We talk about picking characters, and I think he definitely has something," said Trescothick of the son of former England opening batsman Chris.

Gough, playing his first England match in over a year, conceded 33 runs from 3.5 wicketless overs. But Trescothick said the figures were not a reflection of the fast bowler's form.

"In his first two overs he went for 17, I think, and didn't even bowl a bad ball. They just got after him with the wind, and it just didn't go his way."

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