Fitness favours Pakistan in high-stakes finale

Friday, December 7, 2007

Buoyed up by a strong finish in the second Test in Kolkata, Pakistan are looking to turn the tables on hosts India in the final Test starting in Bangalore from tomorrow (Saturday).

A team official told on Thursday that the morale in the Pakistan camp is high after the drawn second Test in which the tourists made a great escape and now the players are confident of leveling the series in Bangalore.

“Unlike the previous Test when we had a lot of fitness headaches, things are much positive now and the players are looking ahead to end the series 1-1 here,”
Ahsan Malik, the team’s spokesman said in a telephonic conversation from Bangalore.

He said that Pakistan will miss the services of regular skipper Shoaib Malik, who continues to remain out due to an ankle injury, but pointed out that stand-in captain Younis Khan has full support of his team-mates.

Malik, who got injured in a training session immediately after the first Test in Delhi, had to sit out of the Kolkata Test and will be unable to take command of his team in Bangalore either.
“Malik went to see a specialist here today and was advised another five-day rest,”
said the official.

“The players are all pumped up to seal this Test and tell the world that they are match winners,”
he added. Pakistan lost the one-day series last month 2-3 and have been unable to come at par with India in the Test series, having lost the opening Test in Delhi by six wickets. They were reduced to the role of saving the second Test at the Eden Gardens after allowing India post a mammoth 616 in the first innings.

Pakistan carried out a training session at the Chinnaswamy Stadium on Thursday but were unable to view the pitch which was covered because of wet weather.
“The captain and team officials will examine the pitch tomorrow after which the playing eleven for the Test will be decided in a team meeting,”
Malik said.

It is expected that the pitch will have some life for the pacers after two low and slow tracks at the Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi and the Eden Gardens in Kolkata. According to Narayan Raju, the curator, the wicket is hard with a lot of grass on it and ample moisture underneath.

With Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Sami fully fit and Sohail Tanvir, Rao Iftikhar Anjum and Yasir Arafat also available for selection, Pakistan have enough pace options. In contrast, India might struggle as some of their top pacers — Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, RP Singh and S Sreesanth — are all unavailable for the final Test.

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