Smith casts doubt on Akhtar's return

South Africa captain Graeme Smith cast doubt on whether Pakistan will risk paceman Shoaib Akhtar in the decisive final match of the ODI series on Monday.

updated: October 29, 2007 08:18 IST
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South Africa captain Graeme Smith cast doubt on Sunday on whether Pakistan will risk paceman Shoaib Akhtar in the decisive final match of the ODI series on Monday.

Akhtar, nicknamed the Rawalpindi Express, was included among Pakistan's 16-man probables squad after serving his ban of 13 international matches for hitting teammate Mohammad Asif with the bat at the World Twenty20 event in South Africa last month.

"He (Akhtar) is short of cricket," Smith said.

"It's the first game for him in a very long time so whether they will risk him or not in such an important game is the key, we will wait and see.

"He is the one who is making a comeback not us.

"We always knew he was available for the fifth game so it's not a surprise for us."

Akhtar has not played a limited-overs international since September 2006 in England. Asif and Akhtar both were pulled from the Champions Trophy in India late last year for using a banned substance nandrolone, with their bans of one year and two years respectively later overruled by a Pakistan Cricket Board tribunal.

They both also missed the World Cup in the West Indies due to injury.

South Africa defeated Pakistan 1-0 in the two-test series earlier this month and with the limited-overs series tied 2-2, Smith was confident his team could go home with both trophies.

"We have played really good cricket and we are confident," Smith said.

"It's our last real day left in Pakistan so it will be fantastic to finish off on a high note and then catch a nice flight back home."

Smith surprised Pakistan by using experienced all-rounder Shaun Pollock third in the batting order in South Africa's convincing seven-wicket win at Multan on Friday and may employ the same strategy on Monday.

Pollock hammered 90 off 84 balls and shared 159-run partnership with Smith which was Proteas best second wicket stand in 51 matches against Pakistan.

"It's something we will discuss tonight," Smith said.

"The wicket looks underprepared, but we have got plans in place," he added.

Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik said a fit Akhtar is an asset for his country and he would like to clinch a first ever one-day series against the Proteas ahead of next week's tour of India.

"We will use Akhtar as our main bowler and if we win the series tomorrow the confidence of our players will go up ahead of the all-important series against India," Malik said.

"We have never won a (limited-overs) series against South Africa, it's time to make history."

Monday's last game of the series has been shifted to Lahore after this month's suicide bombing in Karachi that resulted in 145 deaths.