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Watch out wonder-Wasim 'cos League is no less of a Test!

PAKISTANI superstar Wasim Akram will start life in the Birmingham League with a warning "Don't expect an easy ride!"

The legendary all-rounder, a hero in county cricket with Lancashire as well as in the Test arena for Pakistan, is set to join Smethwick after captaining his country in this summer's World Cup.

But if he thinks that competing at League level will be light relief following the pressures of top international cricket, he has another think coming says his Smethwick skipper Asif Din.

The former Warwickshire star, who like Akram has been recruited by ambitious Smethwick this year, said: "I shall tell Wasim not to think he can just turn up and expect to roll teams over with the bat or the ball.

"He is a great player who will certainly make a big impact in the Birmingham League, but there are lots of good players in this League and they won't be quaking in their boots at the prospect of facing him.

"The Birmingham League is arguably the strongest in the country and Wasim will find himself in some good contests.

"He has signed a two year contract and is very serious about playing for Smethwick and also bringing on our youngsters, which I believe is crucial for the future of not only our club but English cricket in general."

Bringing on youngsters has already proved an excellent policy for Wolverhampton, who won the League last year with a crop of mainly home-grown players.

It will be a tough task for them to retain the crown, particularly as clubs such as Smethwick have strengthened their squads with big-name players.

Wolverhampton captain Duncan Lampitt said: "A lot of clubs have invested in new players, but we decided not to as it would be unfair on the lads who did so well last season.

"We have brought in John Anders, the Shropshire opening batsmen, but he is a straight replacement for Andy Williams."

Walsall, pipped at the post by Wolverhampton last year, will again be strong contenders in what could be the hardest championship battle in years.

Bedfordshire batsman Dave Clarke has left Walsall, but they will be strengthened by two players from League rivals - all-rounder Chris Burroughs from Stourbridge and Barnt Green opening bowler Ian McCarter.

Two of last year's under-achievers, West Bromwich Dartmouth and Old Hill, have recruited South African players to help their title bids.

Opening batsman Michael Rindel, who just missed out on selection for his country's World Cup squad, has joined Dartmouth while fast bowler Andy Tweedie will be playing for Old Hill.

Good outside bets for the title could be last season's first division champions Cannock, who have added ex-Worcestershire paceman Paul Thomas and Staffordshire spinner Guy Bulpitt to their ranks.

Captain Laurie Potter, formerly of Leicestershire, said modestly: "We probably exceeded our expectations by winning the first division last year. We are really looking forward to the new season, aiming to enjoy our cricket but also to give a very good account of ourselves."
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Author:Leighton, Tony
Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Apr 25, 1999
Words:500
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