Akhtar in preliminary squad

Shoaib Akhtar has been included in the 21-man Pakistan preliminary squad to tour England, after undergoing surgery on his knee.

He underwent the surgery in February, on a potentially career-threatening injury. He has returned to bowling in nets recently and has confirmed he is on the way to match fitness.

Pakistan have recognised the importance of pace in English conditions, and the squad sports seven fast bowlers, including a recall for Mohammad Sami after impressive domestic form. Chairman of Selectors Wasim Bari, emphasised the importance of pace in Egland, as well as saying Akhtar’s place is not certain in an interview with AFP earlier this week: “We need our best fast bowlers for the tour of England so Akhtar is back, but he will not be an automatic choice and will have to prove his fitness in the conditioning camp.”

In the same interview he also said: “You need batsmen with good technique as the ball moves in English conditions, so we need very good openers who can cope under the conditions.” This may signal the end of Shoaib Malik’s stint at the top of the order, and also justifies the inclusion of three specialist openers in the squad. These are Salman Butt, Imran Farhat and Taufeeq Umar, the latter of which has not played since his poor showing in India last year.

The squad will travel to Lahore next week for a conditioning camp from May 25 to June 5, with Jonty Rhodes arriving to improve their fielding. After consultation between, Bob Woolmer and Inzamam Ul-Haq, a 16-man travelling party will be announced on June 9.

Pakistan Preliminary squad – Inzamam-ul-Haq (c), Salman Butt, Imran Farhat, Taufiq Umar, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Faisal Iqbal, Shahid Afridi, Bazid Khan, Asim Kamal, Kamran Akmal (wk), Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Akhtar, Danish Kaneria, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Asif, Rao Iftikhar, Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul, Zulqarnain Haider (wk)

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