|Player:||Azhar Mahmood, Shabbir Ahmed, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul|
DateLine: 6th February 2007
Pakistan's forgotten all-rounder Azhar Mahmood was due to fly to South Africa Monday as the latest reinforcement for his country's injury-hit squad, selectors said. Mahmood, who played the last of his 139 one-day internationals in Australia in February 2005, will travel on Monday night and may be available to play in the second one-day international at Durban on February 7. "The team management has asked for a replacement for injured paceman Shabbir Ahmed and Mahmood is being rushed to South Africa for the one-day series," selector Iqbal Qasim told AFP. Ahmed, who joined the team for the one-day series, hurt his groin and is the third player to be sent back from South Africa on fitness grounds after bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul returned last month. Akhtar was not in the original squad for the Test series but was sent as a replacement for Gul, who twisted his ankle during the team's first warm-up match, barely three days after Pakistan landed in the Republic. Akhtar's tour also lasted just a week as he tore his hamstring muscle during the second Test at Port Elizabeth and had to be sent back. South Africa took a 1-0 lead in the five-match one-day series on Sunday with a thumping 164-run victory over Pakistan at Centurion. They amassed 392-6 in 50 overs before bowling out Pakistan for 228. The 31-year-old Mahmood, who criticised selectors for not including him in the 30-man World Cup probables list, was ecstatic at the recall. He has been in prolific form in domestic cricket and hit a century in each innings for Islamabad against Multan last week, as well as taking 34 wickets in the past four matches. Mahmood, who was also a star for Surrey in the English domestic season, hoped the South Africa series would revive his international career. "I have not given up hopes of playing in the World Cup and would do my best to give a performance which earns me a place in the World Cup squad," said Mahmood, who has 1,492 runs and 122 wickets in one-day cricket. Pakistan are expected to announce their World Cup squad next week. The ninth World Cup will start in the West Indies on March 13.