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England v Pakistan, Twenty20, Bristol

'We are a lethal one-day team now' - Shoaib

S Rajesh

August 29, 2006

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Shoaib Akhtar: ready for international cricket © Getty Images
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Shoaib Akhtar has said he is looking forward to playing his part in a "lethal" Pakistan one-day team during their forthcoming series against England. Shoaib marked his return to international cricket after a six-month absence with 1 for 31 as Pakistan, in their maiden Twenty20 international, beat England by five wickets at the Nevil Ground.

"It was all right. After a six-month lay-off, to come back in a Twenty20 is never easy," Shoaib told reporters when asked about his performance at Bristol. "Just finding my rhythm is more important and I need to do that as quickly as possible," added Shoaib ahead of Pakistan's five-match one-day series against England starting with Wednesday's day-night clash at Cardiff.

Shoaib, who'd been sidelined with a stress fracture of his left ankle, last played international cricket in February when Pakistan beat India by 341 runs for a series-clinching third Test victory at Karachi. Together with Rana Naved and Shoaib Malik, he missed the entire Test series against England which concluded with Pakistan's dramatic fourth Test forfeiture at The Oval after they'd been penalised for ball-tampering.

Shoaib insisted that the furore caused by events at The Oval had not deflected the tourists from their on-field targets. "We're a happy bunch of lads. We love playing cricket, we love playing for our country and we enjoy the game. We're here to win," said Shoaib. "We've got a full, fresh side now. We've got our bowlers back, myself, [Mohammad] Asif and Rana. Our batsmen are getting runs and we've got people who can hit the ball really hard at the end. We are a very lethal one-day team right now and we would just like to continue winning."

England's defeat - their seventh in as many shorter matches against Test match opponents this season after a Twenty20 and 5-0 one-day series loss against Sri Lanka - was made worse by the announcement that Stephen Harmison would miss the one-day series with a back problem. The consolation was the performances of Stuart Broad, who took two wickets off successive balls, and allrounder Michael Yardy, who scored 24 not out and took a wicket with his left-arm spin.

Marcus Trescothick, who top-scored for England with 53, said his side's lack of runs was compounded by Afridi's whirlwind 28 off 10 balls which swung the match Pakistan's way after Broad's double-strike had reduced the visitors to 23 for 2 inside four overs. "We were probably 20 or 30 runs light," Trescothick explained. "That innings from Afridi was quite crucial at the time. Afridi is a little bit hit and miss at times, with all due respect to him. But when he is good like that he is destructive and can take the game away from you very quickly."

Trescothick also had words of praise for Broad. "I think he's a good prospect - and the way he approached it and the fashion he bowled in was encouraging. We talk about picking characters, and I think he definitely has something." Trescothick defended the performance of Darren Gough as well, even though he went for 35 in 3.5 overs and failed to take a wicket. "In his first two overs he went for 17, I think, and didn't even bowl a bad ball. They just got after him with the wind, and it just didn't go his way."

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S Rajesh Stats editor Every week the Numbers Game takes a look at the story behind the stats, with an original slant on facts and figures. The column is edited by S Rajesh, ESPNcricinfo's stats editor in Bangalore. He did an MBA in marketing, and then worked for a year in advertising, before deciding to chuck it in favour of a job which would combine the pleasures of watching cricket and writing about it. The intense office cricket matches were an added bonus.
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