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World Cup boost for Azhar Mahmood?

india Updated: Feb 05, 2007 18:25 IST
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Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mahmood, for long consigned to oblivion, has received a surprise recall to replace injured pacer Shabbir Ahmed for the one-day series in South Africa.

A Pakistan Cricket Board spokesman confirmed that Azhar Mahmood would be leaving on Tuesday to join the team.

"We are not sure if he would be available for the second one-dayer on Feb 7 but he will certainly be in contention to play the last three games," the spokesman said.

Shabbir Ahmed returned home on Monday from South Africa after picking up a groin injury.

Pakistan has faced a host of injury and disciplinary problems with its team in South Africa and the manner in which they have been thrashed in the Twenty20 match and the first one-dayer by the South Africans has raised serious doubts over their preparations for next month's World Cup.

The selector's decision to send Azhar Mahmood, who turns 31 this month, instead of the more youthful Rao Iftikhar comes as a big surprise and is an indication that if the former performs well in the games in South Africa he could be a last moment replacement in the World Cup squad.