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Waqar lauds ‘exceptional’ Gul

Waqar Younus was effusive in his praise for Umar Gul, who set up Pakistan’s victory against Zimbabwe on Monday.

There was a marked difference to Gul's bowling on Monday as he ran through -Zimbabwe's top-order with a three-wicket burst. Not only did the pacer bag the Man-of-the-Match award for his efforts, he drew generous praise from his coach.

"Gul was exceptional and that was not just because of the three wickets he took. He bowled with a lot of heart. He is the kind of bowler, who comes back stronger after he is hurt. When people criticise his performance and he goes for runs, Gul is a new bowler on his comeback," Waqar said.

"He bowled well in patches against Sri Lanka but he also bowled poorly. But he worked hard over the last five days and the difference was for everyone to see," Waqar told reporters after Pakistan crushed Zimbabwe by seven wickets (D/L) on Monday.

Some eyebrows were raised when Shoaib Akhtar missed the cut for the playing XI but Waqar reasoned it, indicating the Rawalpindi Express was past his prime and had to be taken care of.

"Akhtar is not 22 anymore and we need to use him well. It was not that he was outstanding in the last match (against New Zealand) so we decided to give Wahab Riaz a chance. Shoaib is in his mid-30's and we have to think about playing the youngsters too," Waqar said.

The changes in the team-combination also brought a change in Pakistan's fortunes as they clinically annihilated the Zimbabweans in a rain-marred match. Umar Akmal was the other regular to sit out, paving the way for Asad Shafiq to make his ICC CWC debut. The right-handed middle-order batsman grabbed it with both hands to lead Pakistan's run-chase with an unbeaten 78.

"Umar Akmal didn't play because he had a finger injury and had done his ankle during training. Asad got a chance and he took it. I think in the days to come, he will become a big name in Pakistan cricket. With the likes of Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq in the middle-order, I am pretty happy with how the batting looks now and if Asad keeps on scoring, we are going to look good," Waqar said.