Vol. 5 Num 156 Thu. October 28, 2004  

Second Test from today

Pakistan's bid to even the series against Sri Lanka suffered a major blow on the eve of Thursday's second and final Test with pace spearhead Shoaib Akhtar declared doubtful because of a shoulder injury.

Akhtar, who was the pick of Pakistan's bowlers with eight wickets in his team's 201-run first-Test loss, pulled up sore after training and may not know until Thursday morning whether he will be fit to play.

"Akhtar complained of shoulder pain and has gone to a doctor for an analysis and is a doubtful starter for the second Test," Pakistan captain Inzamamul Haq told reporters on Wednesday.

"We may try to play him by having pain killing injections on his shoulder ... but that can be decided only after the doctor's report."

Akhtar's loss would be a double blow for Pakistan with his new-ball partner, Mohammad Sami, already ruled out for the Karachi Test after suffering a groin injury in Faisalabad.

"It is very hard to stage a comeback in a two-match series and after batting flops we now face an injury scare to Akhtar for the second Test, its tough for us," a downbeat Inzamam said.

With Shabbir Ahmed still recovering from a knee operation and Umer Gul is out for a year with stress fractures in the back, Pakistan are in danger of being without its top four pace bowlers.

Pakistan may have to blood two Test debutants in Karachi, teenager Riaz Afridi and Navedul Hasan, both of whom lack the express pace of Akhtar and Sami.

"Our bowlers will have to bowl in the manner they did in the first innings at Faisalabad but our batsmen will have to give them a total in excess of 400 runs," Inzamam said.

Akhtar said his shoulder had "jammed" after his long stints bowling in the first Test and he was in considerable pain.

"I am desperate to play and the last option would be to play with injections but that too may not be decided until the morning of the match," Akhtar told AFP.

Pakistan are likely to make as many as four changes from the first Test, having already dropped out-of-form wicketkeeper Moin Khan for young Kamran Akmal.

Top-order batsman Younis Khan may also get the nod in place of Asim Kamal.

Pakistan are desperate to turn around their form from the first Test and avoid a third successive home series defeat to Sri Lanka following humiliations in 1995 and 1999.

In the first Test, Pakistan's batsmen let the team down with no-one able to post three figures, and veteran Sri Lankan opener Sanath Jayasuriya pummelled the bowlers in the second innings with an epic 253.

Jayasuriya helped Sri Lanka set Pakistan an insurmountable 418-run target to win, and the home team crumbled to be all out for 216 in their second innings.

Sri Lankan captain Marvan Atapattu said his players had already put their first Test performance behind them.

"We are confident but the next Test starts from zero. We have won a game, it's okay, but no big deal," said Atapattu, who has his own reasons for wanting to forget the first Test after falling twice to Akhtar without scoring.

"It will be a fresh game and we have to put things right to get the required result at the end of the fifth day."

Sri Lanka's only change may be the inclusion of all-rounder Farveez Maharoof in place of fast bowler Lasith Malinga, who failed to impress in the first Test.

PAKISTAN (from): Inzamamul Haq (captain), Yasir Hameed, Imran Farhat, Asim Kamal, Yousuf Youhana, Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Kamran Akmal, Zulqarnain Haider, Shoaib Akhtar, Navedul Hasan, Danish Kaneria, Riaz Afridi.

SRI LANKA (from): Marvan Atapattu (captain), Sanath Jayasuriya, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Thilan Samaraweera, Jehan Mubarak, Ian Daniel, Thilina Kandamby, Romesh Kaluwitharana, Upul Chandana, Chaminda Vaas, Farveez Maharoof, Lasith Malinga, Dilhara Fernando, Rangana Herath.

Umpires: Billy Bowden (New Zealand) and Steve Bucknor (West Indies).

I CAN EVEN HIT ONE STUMP: Pakistan vice-captain Yousuf Youhana is having target practice during a training session at the National Stadium in Karachi yesterday. PHOTO: AFP