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Late decision costs Islamabad Leopards

Shoaib Malik finishes a drug test AFP

A late decision by the PCB to allow national team players to take part in the semi-finals of the ongoing RBS Twenty20 cup may have cost Islamabad Leopards a place in the final of the tournament.

Pakistan's team management had taken a decision after the Bhurban training camp that players involved in the ICC World Twenty20 would not take part in the entire domestic tournament, limiting their involvement to two or three group games.

That meant players such as Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Islamabad's captain, and Salman Butt, Ahmed Shehzad and Kamran Akmal for the Lahore Lions, and Shoaib Malik, Sialkot's captain, would not be eligible for the semis.

But a late overturning of the agreement on the day of the semi-finals - at the apparent insistence of Lahore and Sialkot - meant the players were allowed to play; all of them returned except Rao, who had already left by then for Khanewal, his hometown.

That deprived an unfancied Islamabad of their captain and leading pace bowler and though stand-in skipper Raheel Majeed led well, Islamabad were edged out by three wickets in a low-scoring thriller.

"The decision [to overturn the limit] was made late yesterday, after some pressure was put on by Sialkot and Lahore," a board official confirmed to Cricinfo.

Islamabad were also deprived of the services of another fast bowler, Shoaib Akhtar, at the start of the tournament. Though he was pulled out of Pakistan's World Cup squad, he was set to take part in the local tournament. However, on the day the tournament started, the board told Islamabad that as Shoaib had been advised rest by a medical committee, as per his central contract, he would not be allowed to play.