Cricket: Wasim makes Test U-turn

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WASIM AKRAM has reversed the decision he made last week to retire over charges of match-fixing and will be available for the forthcoming Australian tour to Pakistan.

Wasim, who played his last game for Lancashire on Sunday, declared himself available for his country despite last week's announcement that he was retiring in order to clear his name in the betting scandal which is currently engulfing the game in Pakistan.

An interim report released by the Pakistan Cricket Board two weeks ago had recommended that Wasim Akram, Salim Malik and Ijaz Ahmad, should not be selected until the investigations were completed. It said all three were prime suspects in an investigation, which is being carried out by a Lahore judge.

The chairman of selectors, Wasim Bari, welcomed the news. "Any world XI would have Wasim Akram in it," he said. "So what's the problem in selecting him if he is available?"

Wasim's pace partner, Waqar Younis, will also be considered for the series against Australia. Waqar, having regaining fitness after damaging his elbow, has not played since he turned out for Glamorgan in a NatWest Trophy match in June. The Australians, under Mark Taylor, arrive in Pakistan tomorrow and play three Tests and three one-dayers, the first Test beginning in Rawalpindi on 1 October.

Meanwhile, Taylor said on the eve of his team's departure for the subcontinent that he hoped the bribery allegations would be pushed into the background.

"I hope that it gets handled very, very quickly," Taylor said. "I'd like to see the game taking the spotlight instead."

The bribery issue first arose four years ago when three Australians accused Pakistan players of offering them bribes to play poorly. The players were all cleared but the issue resurfaced this month when the Pakistan Cricket Board said that three players - Salim Malik, Wasim and Ijaz Ahmed - were prime suspects in an investigation into match-fixing.

An interim report recommended they should not be selected until the probe was completed, but Taylor said their presence was not an issue for the tourists. "Whoever their team comprises it's going to be a good side," Taylor said.

Paul Prichard has resigned as Essex captain after a season in which the county finished bottom of the Championship for the second time in their history. The England vice-captain, Nasser Hussain, will succeed him.

The Worcestershire captain, Tom Moody, has hinted that he may bring down the curtain on his county career at the end of next season. Moody has signed a one-year contract but a source close to the county said: "If I was a betting man I wouldn't put money on him coming back to England to play after 1999."

The Sussex captain, Chris Adams, is ready to commit himself to the county for the rest of his career. The 28-year-old batsman has opened talks with the club about extending his current three-year contract, which runs until 2000.

Sussex will also offer Australian Test all-rounder Michael Bevan a two- year extension to his current contract.