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Aamer On Fast Track To Success

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By Chris Barclay of NZPA

Napier, Dec 11 NZPA - As Shane Bond's test cricket career hangs in the balance and Iain O'Brien becomes the first confirmed departure from an aging pace attack, New Zealand's selection panel probably view Pakistan's pace battery with a degree of envy.

Not only are the tourists well served by a resurgent Mohammad Asif and reverse swing expert Umar Gul -- yet again they have unearthed a teenage fast bowler from the dusty tracks of the Punjab, 17-year-old Mohammad Aamer.

The lithe left armer appears destined to follow in the sprig marks of his idol, the legendary Wasim Akram.

Their stature and delivery style is in complete contrast, but Aamer has already shown an Akram-like ability to detect and then hone in on an opponent's weakness - in this case, New Zealand's opening batsmen.

Venturing outside the security of the subcontinent for the first time in his brief test career, Aamer has made light of uncomfortably cold, windy conditions - a climate as far removed from his home in Gujjar Khan as you could get.

The squad's other teenager Umar Akmal, a centurion on debut in Dunedin, justified his rave reviews and new ball partner Asif has secured the lion's share of New Zealand wickets with 17 and counting.

But Aamer's shock value cannot be underestimated heading into today series decider at McLean Park.

He was responsible for sowing the first seed of doubt in Tim McIntosh's mind with the very first ball of the series in Dunedin when he deceived the opener with a yorker that played on to leg stump.

A hard act to follow, but he did. In New Zealand's second innings he turned attention to Martin Guptill, knocking over his off stump for a four-ball duck. Then, in his next over, a crease-bound Daniel Flynn met the same scoreless fate, leg before wicket.

At the Basin Reserve Aamer needed only five deliveries of the first over to separate Guptill and McIntosh; his instant wicket-taking trend ended in the second innings, but he still had the satisfaction of dislodging Ross Taylor for 97 and effectively ending Peter Fulton's test career.

Aamer made his debut against Sri Lanka in July and so far has 13 test wickets at 35.84 from his five caps. In this series he has seven at 29.28.

At his age, searing pace has been both a friend and foe. Able to regularly exceed 145kmh, Aamer has already succumbed to the fast bowler's curse -- stress fractures -- when he was over-bowled on an age-group tour to England in 2007.

Then, at the under-19 World Cup in Malaysia last year, he contracted dengue fever from a mosquito bite and needed two months to recover. His comeback to first class cricket spanned only 46 balls when back problems resurfaced, putting his future in doubt.

"I wanted to play cricket even if I had to wear 10 belts (for the bad back). If the pain didn't go away, I told my coach I'd leave cricket and get back to studying, but I wanted to give it a shot," he said.

Since then he has been injury-free under the tutelage of Akram and now Pakistan bowling coach Aaqib Javed, another former international fast bowler.

Aaqib has nurtured Aamer for 2-1/2 years and uses the ball that flummoxed McIntosh at University Oval as proof the boy is a potential great.

"We'd figured out a few top order batsmen and decided what he will do with the first ball. He did the same ball, that's the quality he has. As coaches it's easy to portray and identify loopholes in a batsman, but it's really difficult for them to strike that spot," Aaqib said.

"He's the package, he has that ability."

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