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Shoaib back on attack for third ODI

Pakistan express bowler Shoaib Akhtar spoke the words New Zealand did not want to hear when he declared himself fit for the third ODI.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2004 01:50 IST

Pakistan express bowler Shoaib Akhtar spoke the words New Zealand did not want to hear when he declared himself fit for the third one-day international on Saturday.

Although the five-match series is locked 1-1, Pakistan are on a high after their lop-sided victory in the second match at Queenstown during the week and New Zealand need to strike back fast if they are to have any confidence in the later matches.

Akhtar has missed both one-day matches after being hit in the groin while batting in practice without a protector, but he could not hide his recovery this week when he was seen bouncing across the waves on a jet-ski.

Pakistan coach Javed Miandad said Akhtar would undergo a further fitness test before the match began but he was optimistic there would be no problems.

"He still has a problem but I'm sure he will be fit enough to play. It's up to him," Miandad said.

And Akhtar told reporters on arrival here that he was ready to play, words that stung a New Zealand side already smarting from his 11 for 78 haul in the recent second Test which gave Pakistan both the match and the Test series.

With the ball likely to swing on the hard and fast Jade Stadium wicket it heightens New Zealand's batting concerns after the top order found Akhtar virtually unplayable in the Test and had just as much trouble with his lieutenants in the first two one-days.

Senior players Craig McMillan and Chris Cairns, who will be playing in front of their home crowd, are desperately in need of runs, captain Stephen Fleming should be contributing more than the 40s he has managed so far while Craig Cumming and Hamish Marshall need a confidence boost.

"Our top and middle order have got to step up and put together some partnerships of significance rather than individuals," New Zealand coach John Bracewell said.

"They expect a lot more of themselves. They believe they need to step forward. You can't launch a big score unless the top and middle order do their stuff."

Fleming was more blunt about the non-firing senior players: "It's their responsibility to drive the team, and drive the game".

Pakistan are unlikely to go too far past their form bowling lineup, except for Azhar Mahmood making way for Akhtar, with Mohammad Sami, Shabbir Ahmed and Abdul Razzaq all giving the New Zealand batsmen cause for concern.

If it was just Pakistan's bowling strength that had New Zealand on the ropes then the Black Caps could have reason to feel that one or two lengthy innings could turn the tide.

But as strong as the tourists are in the field, they are equally dominant with the bat, creating selection problems for New Zealand.

It is likely the Black Caps will be forced to rest spinner Daniel Vettori, otherwise it would mean resting either Daryl Tuffey or Jacob Oram, who along with gloveman Brendon McCullum and allrounder Scott Styris, have been New Zealand's only form players so far.

Regardless of the bowling mix New Zealand take in, Bracewell was clear on what was required after Imran Farhat and Yousuf Youhana helped Pakistan cruise to their target of 236 on Wednesday.

"We've got to become more disciplined with our bowling lines. Our lengths varied, we bowled too many wides, we didn't create enough pressure by hitting the right lengths," he said.

New Zealand (from): Stephen Fleming (captain), Craig Cumming, Hamish Marshall, Scott Styris, Craig McMillan, Chris Cairns, Jacob Oram, Brendon McCullum, Kyle Mills, Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey, Ian Butler.

Pakistan (from): Inzamam-ul-Haq (captain), Imran Farhat, Yasir Hameed, Salim Elahi, Yousuf Youhana, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Moin Khan, Azhar Mahmood, Mohammad Sami, Shabbir Ahmed, Younis Khan, Danish Kaneria, Umar Gul, Shoaib Akhtar.

First Published: Jan 09, 2004 13:55 IST