|Event:||Pakistan in British Isles 2006|
DateLine: 27th April 2006
Former cricket great Imran Khan Thursday predicted a battle of the fast bowlers when Pakistan tour England in the summer.
Pakistan's hopes depend on the fitness of spearhead paceman Shoaib Akhtar and new find Mohammad Asif, the legendary allrounder said.
"The series between Pakistan and England will see a battle of pace and will be a treat to watch," Khan told AFP.
Pakistan, who beat England 2-0 in their home series last year, play four Tests and five one-day internationals on the tour starting late June. The first Test starts at Lord's on July 13.
"For Pakistan the key is Shoaib Akhtar's fitness," Khan said.
Akhtar is recuperating from twin knee operations held earlier this year. He took 17 wickets against England last year but is racing against time to regain full fitness before the tour.
"Besides Akhtar, I think Pakistan should get Mohammad Sami back in the side. Then Umar Gul and the most sensational find, Mohammad Asif, gives Pakistan a potent bowling attack," said Khan, who took 362 wickets in 88 Tests.
"Asif is an asset, not only for Pakistan but for world cricket and I see a great future ahead of him if he maintains discipline and the will to learn more and more," said Khan.
The 23-year-old rookie paceman Asif made a big impact when he took seven wickets in Pakistan's series-winning triumph in the third and final Test against India at Karachi in January.
He followed it up with 17 wickets in two Tests to help Pakistan win the series in Sri Lanka earlier this month.
"Asif will improve his talent when he plays for Leicestershire in this coming English season. It will be a great sight to see him bowl in the England series," said Khan.
However Khan, who is now a member of parliament in his home country, warned that Pakistan face an equally powerful attack from England.
"England too have quality bowlers in Steve Harmison, Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff," said Khan, under whom Pakistan won their first series in England in 1987.
Since then Pakistan won on the 1992 and 1996 tours and squared their last series 1-1 in England five years ago.
Khan said Pakistan will have to shrug off a defensive approach while facing England.
"Despite some good results recently, I am surprised at the defensive strategies of the Pakistan team. To maintain the unbeaten run in England, Pakistan need to adopt a more aggressive approach."
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)