Woolmer turns to marble
In order to practice against short-pitched bowling and steepling bounce, and with no bowlers of their own who can extract such lift, Pakistan have been using a marble slab in training which causes a ball to rise sharply. Bob Woolmer, their coach, isn't averse to using alternative coaching methods, and explained that his side were finding it a useful aid ahead of the second Test at Old Trafford tomorrow, on a pitch expected to be quick and bouncy.
"It's an interesting thing I picked up from the Pakistan team. Javed Miandad (former Pakistan batsman and coach), I think, introduced it," he said. "If you don't have players of pace in your bowling line-up to test your batsmen you have to test them some other way during practice. A lot of our players enjoy using it. I don't know why because if you hit them it makes a nasty thud."
Pakistan's three fast bowlers, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, all remain on the sidelines. Worse was to come on Tuesday when Shahid Afridi, their legspinning allrounder, was hit while batting in the nets. However Woolmer confirmed Afridi would be fit for tomorrow, while dampening speculation that Akhtar was on the verge of returning to the side.
"Afridi is fit and available," he said. "Shoaib Akhtar on a bouncy pitch would be a handful. Unfortunately, he's not ready. He's still 10 days away from bowling properly in a match and then he's got to get match-fit before he could get in the team.We don't have Shoaib Akhtar available for this match or the next Test (at Headingley)," Woolmer insisted.
Despite the notion that the pitch at Old Trafford takes to spin from day one, Woolmer has resisted the temptation to call up Mushtaq Ahmed, the ageless legspinner who plays for Sussex.
"I've watched cricket a lot here [at Old Trafford] in the last four years and spinners haven't been devastating," he explained. "Warne's figures were nought for 74 in the second innings against England last year and he's one of the greatest leg-spinners of all time. I've also noticed that Old Trafford hasn't turned up too many results. However, the last time it turned up a good result was for Pakistan and we are hoping those ghosts will come back and haunt England."
Woolmer also confirmed that Younis Khan, the Pakistan vice-captain, will definitely take his place in the side tomorrow. The second Test gets underway at 11.00am BST on Thursday.