| Nasser Hussain shows off his soccer skills Friday. (AFP)
Cape Town: England captain Nasser Hussain is on course to play in the “must-win” World Cup game against Pakistan at Newlands on Saturday after shaking off a neck problem.
Hussain, who missed the team’s second group A game against Namibia, came through a net session on Friday at Newlands.
“He felt a lot better this morning when he woke up,” England coach Duncan Fletcher said. “He had a very long net and is very confident of playing.
“Psychologically, it’s a must-win game...this is the first time we have played against major opposition.”
Hussain had been suffering from a stiff neck. Fletcher said one-day allrounder Ian Blackwell had “improved considerably” after complaining of a bad back and would undergo a fitness test before Saturday’s encounter.
Left-arm spinner Ashley Giles, who missed England’s matches against Holland and Namibia because of tonsillitis, was also in better shape “and should be 100 percent,” according to Fletcher.
The unpredictable Shahid Afridi may return to the Pakistan team. He could displace fellow allrounder Abdul Razzaq, who has not been in good form lately.
A key player for Pakistan is likely to be Saeed Anwar, who made an inconclusive return to international cricket when he scored 23 against Namibia in Kimberley on Sunday.
Anwar, 34, was recalled to the Pakistan team for the World Cup after two seasons of frustration while he battled a stress fracture in his left hand.
But the left-hander, who has scored 19 one-day International centuries, missed his team’s first match against Australia after being hit on the left arm by a delivery from Shoaib Akhtar at the nets before the tournament.
Inzamam-ul Haq is expected to move upto No. 3 to add experience to the top-order. The big right-hander, with ten runs in two matches, has been staying away from the nets in order to regain form.
“He’s hardly batting at the moment,” media manager Samiul Hasan said. “The idea is to make him hungry for runs.”
Pakistan have so far failed to make the good starts they need to give their attacking middle and lower-order batsmen a licence to go for big shots.
Marcus Trescothick, said: “It is a make or break game for us. We’re as prepared as we can be.”
England have made their own task more difficult by boycotting their match in Harare, forfeiting the points to Zimbabwe.
With Australia already well-placed to top the group after wins against Pakistan, India and Holland, England need to beat Pakistan and India to have a realistic chance of finishing in the top three.
ENGLAND (from): Nasser Hussain, James Anderson, Ian Blackwell, Andrew Caddick, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Ashley Giles, Stephen Harmison, Matthew Hoggard, Ronnie Irani, Nick Knight, Alec Stewart, Marcus Trescothick, Michael Vaughan, Craig White.
PAKISTAN (from): Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Taufeeq Umar, Saleem Elahi, Younis Khan, Yousuf Youhana, Inzamam-ul Haq, Shahid Afridi, Abdur Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood, Wasim Akram, Rashid Latif, Mohammed Sami, Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain Mushtaq.
Umpires: Rudi Koertzen (SA) and Bruce Jerling (SA).
Third umpire: Steve Bucknor (WI).
Match Referee: Mike Procter (SA).