| Fleming feels 200-210 will be a winning score
Dambulla: Shoaib Akhtar won’t be there when Pakistan take on New Zealand in the final of the tri-series Friday. But his teammates want to do it for him and dedicate the triumph to the tainted paceman who was handed a two-match ban for ball tampering Wednesday.
Pakistani skipper Rashid Latif said on the eve of the final: “We are determined to win and want to dedicate it to Akhtar.”
Akhtar, 27, was suspended and fined 75 per cent of his match-fee for ball tampering during Pakistan’s last league game against New Zealand.
He became only the second bowler after compatriot Waqar Younis to be banned for this offence. Younis served a one-match suspension in 2000 during a tri-series involving South Africa and Sri Lanka.
Latif said the team’s morale was high despite Akhtar’s absence against the more experienced opponents.
“His absence has made the team more determined. All of us support him and the team spirit is high,” said Latif, who is hoping to complete a double after winning a four-nation tournament in Sharjah last month.
He said it was “bad luck” that Akhtar was unavailable just when he seemed to be regaining his best form. “He bowled really fast in this tournament, especially in the last league game.
“He is a match-winner and has shown the same old devastating form in this series. We had better chances in the final if he was available.”
Akhtar looked impressive in all the four games unsettling the New Zealand and Sri Lankan batsmen with his pace and accuracy to finish with seven wickets.
Pakistan planned to make two changes in their team, including debutant opener Faisal Athar and fast bowler Shabbir Ahmed in place of Taufeeq Umar and Akhtar.
However, New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming doesn’t believe his team’s chances had gone up following Akhtar’s absence, as they too are missing key fast bowler Shane Bond.
Bond returned home due to a back injury after having played just two matches. “Both the teams are now on an even plane,” said Fleming, eyeing a rare away triumph.
“Pressure will hold key in the final. Pakistan are a young talented side, but we are confident of a good showing as we have experienced players,” said Fleming.
The New Zealand captain was looking forward to an impressive performance from his batsmen, saying a total of “200-210” would be defendable.
New Zealand will have all rounder Jacob Oram, who missed the last two games with a back strain, taking the place of off spinner Paul Wiseman or seamer Kyle Mills. Daniel Vettori has also recovered from the sore knee suffered in the last game.
New Zealand (from): Stephen Fleming (captain), Chris Nevin, Lou Vincent, Scott Styris, Chris Cairns, Chris Harris, Brendon McCullum, Paul Wiseman, Daniel Vettori, Daryl Tuffey, Kyle Mills, Jacob Oram, Matt Horne, Andre Adams
Pakistan (from): Rashid Latif (captain), Taufeeq Umar, MohammEd Hafeez, Younis Khan, Yousuf Youhana, Yasir Hameed, Shoaib Malik, Abdul Razzaq, Danish Kaneria, Mohammed Sami, Shabbir Ahmed, Umar Gul, Faisal Ahtar
Umpires: Daryl Harper (Aus) and Asoka de Silva (SL)
Third Umpire: Gamini Silva (SL)
Match-Referee: Gundappa Viswanath (Ind).