Woolmer hoping Pakistan keep their marbles
by AFP

Ground:Old Trafford, Manchester
Player:SJ Harmison, Javed Miandad, Mohammad Yousuf, Danish Kaneria, Naved-ul-Hasan, Shahid Afridi, Mushtaq Ahmed, Younis Khan
Event:Pakistan in British Isles 2006

DateLine: 27th July 2006


Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer revealed his side were using a novel training aid in a bid to get the team's batsmen ready to face England fast bowler Stephen Harmison in the second Test here at Old Trafford.


Harmison took four wickets in the first innings of the drawn first Test between the sides at Lord's and Woolmer's players are using a marble slab which causes a ball to rise sharply when it lands on it in an attempt to replicate the extreme bounce often generated by the England star.


"It's an interesting thing I picked up from the Pakistan team. Javed Miandad (former Pakistan batsman and coach), I think, introduced it.


"If you don't have players of pace in your bowling line-up to test your batsmen you have to test them some other way during practice.


"A lot of our players enjoy using it. I don't know why because if you hit them it makes a nasty thud," former England batsman Woolmer also told reporters at Old Trafford here Wednesday.


"But if the opposition have someone like Brett Lee or Harmison who gets steep bounce you have to try to replicate that in practice to try to get people to play it."


Pakistan's three leading quicks Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif and Naved-ul-Hasan are all still injured after the trio also missed the first Test.


The team's injury problems appeared to worsen Tuesday when leg-spinning all-rounder Shahid Afridi was hit while batting in the nets.


But Woolmer insisted the hard-hitting strokeplayer would be fit to take his place when the second match of the four-Test series started Thursday.


"Afridi is fit and available," said the coach before playing down reports that Akhtar was on the brink of an imminent return from an ankle injury.


"Shoaib Akhtar on a bouncy pitch would be a handful. Unfortunately, he's not ready.


He's still 10 days away from bowling properly in a match and then he's got to get match-fit before he could get in the team.


"We don't have Shoaib Akhtar available for this match or the next Test (at Headingley)," Woolmer insisted.


And he said that while Pakistan had thought of calling up leg-spinner Mushtaq Ahmed, currently at English county Sussex, slow bowlers had not been a potent force in recent Old Trafford Tests, citing the performance of Australia's Shane Warne in last year's drawn Ashes clash as an example.


"I've watched cricket a lot here in the last four years and spinners haven't been devastating.


"Warne's figures were nought for 74 in the second innings against England last year and he's one of the greatest leg-spinners of all time.


"I've also noticed that Old Trafford hasn't turned up too many results. However, the last time it turned up a good result was for Pakistan (in 2001 when the tourists won by 108 runs) and we are hoping those ghosts will come back and haunt England."


Woolmer did indicate that there would be at leasr one change from the team at Lord's, with a spot being found for vice-captain and top-order batsman Younis Khan, fit again after a knee injury.


"Younis Khan will definitely come back in," said Woolmer without adding who would drop out.


England too have their injury problems with all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who the hosts had opened would be their captain on his Old Trafford home ground, out of the series with an ankle injury.


"It's hard on Andrew. I'm glad they've sorted out what the problem is and that he'll get fit again because he's obviously very important to English cricket.


"We have to play well to beat any side that England produce and we don't consider them a walkover or a pushover just because Flintoff's not playing. We can't worry about their players."

(Article: Copyright © 2006 AFP)