Sami cleared for first Test
Pakistan have received a timely boost ahead of their preparations for the first Test against England in Multan with the news that Mohammad Sami has been passed fit to play.
Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach, confirmed to Reuters that Sami would be available for the Test, starting from 12 November. "Sami is clear to play the Test, which is good for us as we will be without Abdul Razzaq." An elbow injury resulted in Razzaq being ruled out of the first Test and he has been advised by doctors to rest for ten days.
Reports last week suggested Sami was doubtful for the match after picking up a groin injury during a practice match in Lahore, but the niggle did not turn out to be as serious as expected.
The news that he is fit will be a relief for Pakistan's management as it is likely to result in their preferred first-choice new ball attack - Sami and Shoaib Akhtar - being picked for the match. The two last appeared together for Pakistan in the Melbourne Test against Australia in December last year; they have rarely had a prolonged run together due, mainly, to injury problems to either player.
Sami has not appeared for Pakistan since the India tour early this year, since when he has been sidelined with a heel injury. And although he has flattered to deceive for much of his international career - he has 58 Test wickets in 21 matches at 47 runs per wicket - his performances on the flat tracks of India suggested he might be coming to terms with the demands of international cricket. He has already taken a Test and ODI hat-trick in his short career.
The news also allows Pakistan, for the first time in a couple of years, the luxury of choosing from a fully fit crop of fast bowlers. Despite picking three specialist spinners in their squad for the first Test, the fact that England have struggled so far against seam bowling is unlikely to have gone unnoticed by the team management. Pakistan have picked Shoaib Akhtar, Shabbir Ahmed, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Sami in the squad.
Pakistan also considered picking other fast bowlers for the squad. Umar Gul, despite returning from a career-threatening back injury and looking impressive, was overlooked eventually while others who have impressed, such as Mohammad Asif and Najaf Shah, were also said to be in the running.
Woolmer also said that Pakistan's preparations for the Tests were on target and that both teams would go into the series with high spirits. "People may have made England favourites for the first Test, but as far as I am concerned both sides start with an equal chance of doing well."