KARACHI // Shoaib Akhtar will head to England as he bids to be fit to play in the Champions Trophy in Pakistan in September. The Pakistan fast-bowler had his 18-month suspension from the game lifted by the Lahore High Court, pending a final decision in September. Shoaib said: "I am relieved. I am keeping fit and I am going to England to try and play some county matches and get in shape for the Champions Trophy.
"I owe my fame to Pakistan, so I will never defame my country. I want to win the Champions Trophy for my country, and for that I need everyone's support." On the evidence of the Asia Cup, Shoaib will walk back into the Pakistan side. They have failed to make today's final, and their bowling has lacked a cutting edge which the world's fastest bowler would definitely provide. However, the decision to quash his ban is not final, and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are still hopeful the suspension will be upheld.
"Shoaib is now free to play for his country," said his lawyer Abid Hasan Minto. "However, this is only an interim order. A final decision will be taken in September when the court reconvenes." Shoaib was given a five-year suspension by the PCB, which was then reduced to 18 months by tribunal that also fined him seven million rupees. The decision on the fine remains unaltered. The PCB lawyer Tafazzaul Rizvi said: "[Friday] was the last working day of the courts and the courts usual give relief to petitioners just before their summer vacation.
"This is normal and it does not have a bearing on the final outcome." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org