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Cricket-World Cup-Akhtar to take centre stage

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    Cricket-World Cup-Akhtar to take centre stage

    Saturday June 19, 6:31 AM

    Cricket-World Cup-Akhtar to take centre stage

    LONDON, June 18 - Shoaib Akhtar takes centre stage at Lord's on Sunday for the biggest game of his life against the toughest team in the world.

    The Pakistan fast bowler touched top pace consistently for the first time in the World Cup in the semifinal against New Zealand, bowling Nathan Astle and Stephen Fleming with express leg-stump yorkers.

    On Sunday Akhtar confronts Australia and the Waugh brothers in a World Cup final promising an epic clash of cultures and personalities.

    Akhtar is currently the most exciting player in the world, sprinting to the crease like an Olympic 100 metres finalist and flinging himself into a whippy delivery stride.

    He is edging closer to the 100 miles per hour (160 kph) landmark and the excitement and stimulus of a World Cup final could see him bowl the fastest recorded delivery in history.

    "I don't mind if he bowls at 90 miles an hour (140 kph) as long as he gets five wickets in an innings," Pakistan captain Wasim Akram said on Friday.

    Akram has easily slipped into the role of elder statesman in the Pakistan side while retaining the ability to bowl venomous late swing.

    "When we won the World Cup in 1992, you cannot imagine the feeling and the reception we got back home," Akram said.

    "So it would be extraordinary if we won the World Cup, both here and back in Pakistan."

    Akram, under the paternal eye of Imran Khan, destroyed the England middle order in the 1992 World Cup final on a memorable night for Pakistan at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

    Now, in turn, he leads the most talented bunch of cricketers in the world with Akhtar as the young lion.

    Australian captain Steve Waugh is the only player in his team to play in a World Cup winning team.

    Waugh was an integral part of Allan Border's 1987 side and 12 years on he is still at the heart of the Australian team.

    After a sluggish start to the tournament, Australia needed to win four games in a row just to get to the final and each time they have responded to the pressure.

    The Australians kept their nerve in the tie against South Africa and with Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne back to their best and the Waugh twins both in form they are set to emulate their 1987 predecessors.

    Waugh said on Friday he was not concerned about Akhtar's speed.

    "The pace isn't the concern," he said. "It's the reverse swing that's going to be difficult, especially
    in the last 10 overs.

    "We are well prepared for a tough game. They are a tough side to play against so we know now what we are going to get."

    The 1999 World Cup has not been blessed by uniformly good weather and Sunday's forecast is mixed.

    Rain is forecast for the morning but it is expected to clear by noon and the afternoon will be fresh but fine.


    Pakistan (from) - 6-Saeed Anwar, 15-Wajahatullah Wasti, 12-Abdur Razzaq, 4-Ijaz Ahmed,
    8-Inzamam-ul-Haq, 13-Yousuf Youhana, 10-Shahid Afridi, 2-Moin Khan, 11-Azhar Mahmood,
    1-Wasim Akram (captain), 9-Saqlain Mushtaq, 14-Shoaib Akhtar.

    Australia (probable) - 6-Mark Waugh, 12-Adam Gilchrist, 14-Ricky Ponting, 10-Darren
    Lehmann, 1-Steve Waugh (captain), 2-MIchael Bevan, 9-Tom Moody, 5-Shane Warne, 4-Paul
    Reiffel, 3-Damien Fleming, 11-Glenn McGrath.


    [This message has been edited by dilse (edited June 19, 1999).]