Lahore High Court suspends Akhtar's 18-month ban

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Lahore, Jul 4 (UNI) The Lahore High Court today suspended an 18-month ban on Pakistani speedster Shoaib Akhtar by the PCB-appointed appellate tribunal for indiscipline and the maverick fast bowler is eyeing this year's Champions Trophy to make a return to the international cricket.

The Lahore High court judge Sayed Zahid Hussain's written ruling made clear that a final decision will be made in September.

''I am persuaded and inclined to take the view that the petitioner is entitled to some interim relief,'' Hussain wrote.

''The ban on him from playing cricket will remain suspended until after the summer vacation 2008 when the petition will be fixed for hearing,'' he added.

Akhtar was banned for five years in April by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for several instances of indiscipline and violating the conditions of a two-year probation.

A PCB tribunal later reduced the suspension to 18 months with a fine of seven million rupees.

However, Akhtar petitioned the court to lift the suspension and made a separate application to stay the ban.

The court today announced its verdict that Akhtar was free to play for Pakistan until it reached a full decision on the writ petition and said the seven million rupees fine on the pacer will stay.

A much relieved Akhtar later expressed his desire to play for the country once again.

''I just want to play for my country and my fitness is okay,'' Akhtar said.

''I might travel to England to play a few county or league matches to gain match fitness,'' he added.

The PCB legal counsel Tafazzaul Rizvi, however, said everything was still not over and the decision was not final as the court had passed the order because it was closing for the summer vacations.

The 32-year-old Akhtar, who has taken 178 Test and 219 one-day wickets, has been a regular offender in the cricketing fraternity.

He was also banned for 13 matches and fined 3.4 million rupees last year during the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa for hitting teammate Mohammad Asif with a bat.

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