|Player:||A McGrath, Naved-ul-Hasan, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Mohammad Sami, Younis Khan, Mohammad Asif, Inzamam-ul-Haq|
|Event:||Pakistan in British Isles 2006|
DateLine: 6th July 2006
Pakistan vice-captain Younis Khan has backed Mohammad Asif to fill the gap left by injured pacemen Shoaib Akhtar and Naved-ul-Hasan in their forthcoming Test series with England.
And he offered hefty praise to Asif, saying the 23-year-old fast-medium bowler reminds him of Australia's Glenn McGrath.
"I wouldn't be surprised if Asif made a big impression on this England tour. We are obviously missing Shoaib (Akhtar) and also probably Naved for the first Test at least but Asif will make an impression, I'm sure.
"He is looking like a young Glenn McGrath at the moment. He is not 'very' fast but he's accurate, knows about line and length and has a good, mature cricket brain for a youngster."
Asif, who has gained experience of English conditions by playing county cricket with Leicestershire, has so far taken 25 wickets in five Test appearances at an impressive average of 20.
But he has a long way to go to match the feats of Aussie great McGrath, who has taken 542 Test wickets, the most by a pace bowler, in 119 matches at just 21.55 apiece.
Nevertheless Asif could well feature at Lord's, where the first Test of a four-match series starts on July 13, with both Naved (groin) and Akhtar (ankle) currently sidelined.
Not that Pakistan are short of pace-bowling options with Umar Gul and Mohammad Sami both on target as Pakistan beat Leicestershire by eight wickets in a three-day tour match at Grace Road that concluded Monday.
"Umar Gul and Mohammad Sami are also looking very good, fit and confident. It shows that our squad is becoming stronger and that we can cope when key players are missing," Younis also told the Bigstarcricket.com website.
And the batsman, who made 55 not out in the second innings against Leicestershire, added he expected conditions in England at this time of year to favour Pakistan, unlike five years ago when they lost the first Test at Lord's by an innings and nine runs.
"The conditions are very good for us at the moment, which wasn't the case back in 2001 when we were confronted with a moist pitch at Lord's in the middle of May and were beaten by an innings after failing to come to terms with England's seamers," Younis explained.
"Playing later in the summer will help us this time with the weather being much warmer and the wickets drier.
"We are used to these kind of dry conditions with the sun out so it should be good for us," the deputy to Inzamam-ul-Haq insisted, adding leg-spinner Danish Kaneria should "especially enjoy the conditions."
Pakistan's final warm-up match starts at Canterbury on Thursday where they take on an England A side featuring Ashes-winning seamer Matthew Hoggard as well as current Test batsmen Ian Bell and Alastair Cook in a four-day contest.
(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)