|Ground:||Kennington Oval, Kennington|
|Player:||Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Hafeez|
|Event:||Pakistan in British Isles 2006|
DateLine: 16th August 2006
Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer has ruled fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar out of the fourth and final Test against England but indicated recently arrived opening batsman Mohammad Hafeez could feature in the series climax at The Oval starting Thursday.
Pakistan, who at 2-0 down have lost the series after crushing defeats at Old Trafford and Headingley, have been without injured pace trio Akhtar, Mohammad Asif and Naved for the first three Tests.
Akhtar, recovering from a stress fracture of the left ankle, bowled 11 overs in Saturday's one-day match against West Indies A at Shenley, north of London.
But with Sunday's game against the same opponents washed out without a ball being bowled, Woolmer made it clear he would not be risking the 'Rawalpindi Express' ahead of the Twenty20 international and five-match one-day series against England.
"Shoaib Akhtar couldn't bowl much in the limited over games so he was not under consideration," former England all-rounder Woolmer said Tuesday of his prize pace bowler.
Akhtar took 17 wickets in Pakistan's 2-0 home Test series win against England in a three-match series late last year but hasn't played Test cricket since February's series-clinching third Test against India at Karachi.
However, Woolmer was more upbeat about Hafeez's chances.
Opening partnerships have been a real problem for Pakistan this series in the absence of the injured Shoaib Malik (elbow).
The tourists have tried three different combinations (Salman Butt and Imran Farhat, wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal and Farhat, and Butt and Taufeeq Umar) in three Tests, none proving successful.
Butt and Umar - himself a late call-up - left the tour Monday and Woolmer said 25-year-old right-hand bat Hafeez, also an off-spinner, could be the man to help solve Pakistan's first-wicket problems.
"Hafeez is in good nick and scored 180 against Australia A last month and gives us the right-left combination (with Farhat)," the coach explained.
"He also gives us the option of a fifth bowler."
Hafeez has played three Tests, all of them against Bangladesh in 2003, with a best of 102.
"Salman Butt, Taufeeq Umar and Samiullah Niazi (an uncapped pace bowler and another of Pakistan's additional call-ups) have returned home and the squad will be further trimmed to 16 before the one-day series," Woolmer added.
"Shoaib Malik's case is touch and go as he is playing a two-day game in Pakistan and we hope he gets well before the one-day series."
Asif (elbow) and Naved (groin) are both back in England after spells recuperating in Pakistan.
But Woolmer was downbeat about the duo's Oval prospects.
"Asif and Naved looked well in the nets but we would re-assess their situation in the nets on Wednesday and only then take a decision," he said. "It would be asking too much from Asif as he has not bowled for well over a month."
Despite all the comings and goings, Woolmer insisted the squad's mood was positive even though Pakistan have now lost their first Test series in England since 1982.
"There is no chaos, it's more a controlled chaos," Woolmer said.
"We need to put every Test in the right kind of perspective. The morale in the camp is high and this team treats every Test with the utmost importance."
England play Pakistan in a one-off Twenty20 at Bristol on August 28 with the one-day series starting at Cardiff two days later before concluding at Edgbaston on September 10.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)
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