Axa League

WASIM Akram told Lancashire: "I'm fit and raring to go."

And the Old Trafford club immediately lined him up for Sunday's Axa League clash with Middlesex.

Wasim was due to arrive in Manchester from Cape Town today where Pakistan had been involved in a triangular one day tournament, and in a phone call before leaving South Africa, he underlined his determination to get back into county action.

"It will be great to see the lads and plan our campaign for the Benson and Hedges Cup next week."

But first Lancashire want him to lead a victory bid against Middlesex. With Ian Austin out, and doubts against Neil Fairbrother and Mike Atherton, Wasim's presence would be a major boost. Lancashire might have won the title last season, but for the shoulder injury which kept him out for all but three early games. They finished third behind Warwicks and Kent. Wasim's last full season with Lancashire was in 1995 when he set an Old Trafford record of 29 league wickets - since beaten by Peter Martin's 31 in 1997 - and led the side to three championship wins while standing in as captain for Mike Watkinson.

Some of his performances that season were sheer inspiration, and Lancashire are looking for more of the same.

"The spirit that he generates filters down to everyone," said John Crawley, his vice captain.

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