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Cricket: Walsh skips Free State

WEST INDIES played a practice session yesterday without Courtney Walsh, who will sit out a final warm-up match against the provincial Free State. After twisting his ankle against Griqualand West last weekend, the 36-year-old pace bowler has also injured his left knee.

The first Test against South Africa begins on 26 November, but the West Indies captain, Brian Lara, said there was no cause for alarm over the player's fitness. "Courtney is a professional," he said. "I'm sure he knows what is required of him. He'll be all right."

The provincial match that starts today will give the South Africa captain, Hansie Cronje, a first chance to assess the competition first hand. Cronje will be playing as part of the Free State team. "I've watched plenty of videos of the West Indies and we've played a lot of one-day games against them, but there's nothing like first-hand knowledge," Cronje said.

The Zimbabwe captain, Alistair Campbell, has promised to give Pakistan "a good fight" as his side opens their 35-day tour today with a one-day international in Gujranwala. "We are quite optimistic about our chances," Campbell said. "We've come to Pakistan after a reasonable performance in Sharjah where we reached the final.

"We beat Sri Lanka twice and India once and therefore our morale is high."

Campbell acknowledged Pakistan had an experienced side that would be out for revenge after being beaten 1-0 by Australia in their three-Test series and 3-0 in the one-day internationals that followed.

"We know Pakistan is an experienced side with some world-class players and although we cannot say we will win the series, we hope we'll give them a tough fight," said the 26-year-old captain, a veteran of 89 one- day games.

He said that wickets for the Australian tour were flat, slow-turning tracks. "We have been here in the past and we've played on the green wickets. So we really don't know what kind of wickets we can expect to be playing on," he said.

The tourists play the other one-day internationals at Sheikhupura and Rawalpindi before the three-Test series starts in Peshawar on 27 November.

The Pakistan captain, Aamir Sohail, said that the return after injury of the opening batsman Saeed Anwar and the middle-order bat Inzimamul Haq had strengthened his side. "There is definitely going to be much improvement in our batting compared to our performance against Australia."