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June 18, 2006

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Test series will be close: Wasim Akram

LONDON: Former captain Wasim Akram expects Pakistan to be involved in a tight Test series with England this summer despite winning 2-0 on home soil last winter.

Their hero then, Shoaib Akhtar, has not played since February due to ankle and knee problems and fellow paceman Rana Naved-ul-Hasan is also an injury doubt.

But Wasim said: “It looks like it is 50-50 because England are also struggling with fitness and injuries. The Pakistan team has got used to Shoaib not playing.”

Wasim featured in Pakistan sides that won Test series in England in 1987, 1992 and 1996.

He went on: “Shoaib has not played for the last six or seven months and they are okay with that but Rana Naved is a big blow because he has been bowling really well for Sussex.

“The Pakistan side is a mix of youth and experience and they are heading the right way.

“Mohammad Asif is a find, Mohammad Sami has picked up again. They are a good bowling side but a bit inexperienced.”

Asif has joined up with the Pakistan squad after starting the season in English county cricket with Leicestershire.

While not quite as effective as Naved was at Sussex, he has been a fine performer for his country in their recent Tests and One-day Internationals.

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