By CHIP Le GRAND
EXPRESS bowler Shoaib Akhtar yesterday was confident he would be fit to bowl
against Australia in the second Test in Hobart, providing Pakistan selectors
with a full menu from which to choose their pace attack.
Pakistan's fast-bowling stocks have been strengthened with the surprise
return to form of veteran quick Waqar Younis, who took seven wickets on a
typically flat Adelaide wicket during their tour match against South
While medium-pace all-rounder Abdur Razzaq is expected to miss because of a
lower back complaint, captain Wasim Akram has overcome a fielding injury
which left the little finger in his right hand badly bruised.
The injury may force Wasim to field outside slips but it should not affect
Shoaib maintained he would be available for the match despite still hobbling
around yesterday on his tender left ankle.
"It is not that sore, I am sure it will be all right," Shoaib told The
"I might be bowling tomorrow. If it is better I will do that."
Shoaib has been on an intensive rehabilitation program since rolling the
ankle. He said it was the first time he had suffered such an injury and was
uncertain exactly what had gone wrong.
"The left foot came down and it just twisted," he said. "I don't know what
happened. It wasn't that serious but . . . I'm sure I will be all right over
the next few days."
The Pakistani camp earlier claimed Shoaib was injured during a social soccer
match but the charismatic speedster said this was not the case.
"It is totally wrong that I was playing soccer. I was playing cricket. I was
bowling in the nets," he said.
Shoaib's confidence was shared by team physiotherapist Dale Naylor.
"He will play, believe me," Naylor told reporters.
Australia's chief fitness concern is the health of leg-spinner Shane Warne,
who is certain to play but is battling the flu.
"A day or so of rest and I'll be fine," Warne said.
His condition is not being helped by very cold weather in Hobart and the
fact he had to attend an official function last night.
Meanwhile, Australian selectors will be pleased to learn Test paceman Jason
Gillespie expects to make his return to first-class cricket by the end of
Gillespie broke his leg in Sri Lanka two months ago in a freak outfield
collision with Steve Waugh, leaving the Australian attack heavily reliant on
Glenn McGrath and Damien Fleming.
"It's coming along pretty well," Gillespie said. "I'm walking pretty well
without a limp now. I haven't progressed to running much as yet."
The injury was yet another setback in the South Australian's luckless career
but Gillespie yesterday told AAP he was walking without a limp and
Gillespie also injured his wrist in the collision, which has preventing him
from lifting weights.
A pin inserted into the fast bowler's right tibia has stabilised the break
and allowed the bones to knit quickly and Gillespie said he planned to play
the first game of the new year for his club, Adelaide.
His aim is to return to first-class cricket by late February or early March.