|Player:||Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Shoaib Malik, Shabbir Ahmed, Mohammad Asif|
DateLine: 10th January 2007
Paceman Shoaib Akhtar has been included in the Pakistan team against South Africa after fast bowler Umar Gul was injured ahead of the first Test, officials said Monday.
Akhtar, 31, was originally left out of the 17-man party after selectors felt he lacked match fitness. But he bowled 21 overs in a first-class match and took five wickets to reclaim his space in the team. "Akhtar will fly out on the first available flight to South Africa as a back-up for fast bowler Gul, who was injured during a tour game," Pakistan Cricket Board spokesman Aamir Bilal told AFP. The first of three tests between Pakistan and South Africa starts on Thursday. "I was disappointed when I was left out but it's beyond me and I am ready to play for my country and for my team," Akhtar told AFP. "I always try my best and will do my best for the team to help it win in South Africa," said Akhtar. Pakistan's chief selector Wasim Bari said that allrounder Shoaib Malik was also unfit. "Gul has been advised rest for three weeks while allrounder Shoaib Malik is also unfit so we have decided to send Akhtar," Bari told AFP. "Akhtar has proved his fitness in the first class match and on the team management demand for a replacement, Akhtar and Shabbir Ahmed's names were considered and Akhtar was a more suitable choice," Bari said. Akhtar has not played for Pakistan since a one-day match against England four months ago. He was banned for two years, and fellow paceman Mohammad Asif for one year, in November after both tested positive for the banned steroid nandrolone in October. However, a Pakistan Cricket Board appellate committee overturned the bans last month on the grounds that neither player took the banned substances knowingly. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has challenged the decision and the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) said last week that it will likely rule on the appeal against the lifting of bans within four months.