Pakistan in South Africa, 2006-07 December 25, 2006

We have a bowling attack to match Australia's - Younis

Khalid Hussain

The return of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif would come as a major boost for Pakistan © AFP

Younis Khan, the Pakistan vice-captain, believes that the possible comeback of three key fast bowlers including Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif would make Pakistan the best bowling team in the world, even ahead of world champions Australia.

Younis said that his team would gain a huge pace advantage once Shoaib, Asif and Shabbir Ahmed - whose action has been cleared by the ICC - return to international cricket during next month's tour of South Africa. The trio have been included in a list of 25 probables invited for a conditioning camp starting in Lahore from tomorrow in preparation for the tour of South Africa.

"We would have a bowling attack stronger than Australia's if Shoaib, Asif and Shabbir return to the squad," Younis told The News at the National Stadium in Karachi. "We are already equipped with some good bowlers but once these three are back our attack would be awesome. All these three are valuable bowlers for their wicket-taking abilities and you need such players to win Tests against strong opponents."

Shoaib and Asif are available for selection for the tour of South Africa starting from January 4 after being cleared of doping offences by a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) appeals committee earlier this month.

Pakistan rode on a good showing from pacers Umar Gul, Shahid Nazir, Abdul Razzaq and legspinner Danish Kaneria to beat West Indies 2-0 in a home Test series this season.

"The one thing that makes me very optimistic about our team's future is that bowlers like Umar Gul, Shahid Nazir and Mohammad Sami have been performing impressively in recent times and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan is also regaining good form," he remarked. "I must say that once we have all our pacers ready for national duty we would be better off than even Australia in this department of the game."

Younis, who led Peshawar Panthers into the semifinals of the ongoing Twenty20 Cup believes Pakistan would be in a good position to win the series in South Africa but was quick to add that the players will have to really apply themselves in what would be demanding playing conditions in South Africa. He played down fears that the Pakistan batsmen would flop on bouncy South African wickets.

"The South Africans are a top side but we are good enough to beat them. By applying ourselves and showing self belief we can do it. The going would be tough but I am confident we would be ready for the challenge."