Waqar salutes Pakistan

2011-05-31 09:27
Waqar Younis (AFP)

Belfast - Pakistan coach Waqar Younis praised his team for a "wonderful job" after they shrugged off the cold to complete a 2-0 one-day international series away to Ireland at Stormont.

A much-improved batting performance by the home team gave Pakistan a victory target of 239 which the World Cup semi-finalists passed for the loss of five wickets with eight balls to spare on Monday.

"This game could have been dodgy for us but everybody chipped in," said former Pakistan captain Waqar.

"Coming straight from the West Indies to such cold weather, it is never easy to change suddenly, with so little time, but the boys did a wonderful job and stuck to their task to the end of this last game," Waqar added.

"We are all looking forward to the rest which will do wonders for us, because we have had eight months on the road, then we will be ready to pick it up again against Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka and England."

However, Waqar himself may have to deal with the fall-out from the international retirement of Shahid Afridi first.

Afridi, who led Pakistan to this year's World Cup semi-finals, was replaced as one-day captain by Misbah-ul-Haq after publicly criticising Waqar during the 3-2 series win in the Caribbean.

He then withdrew from the two Ireland matches on account of his father's illness.

His retirement was confirmed well after close of play at Stormont, where another fast-scoring batsman had caused Waqar a more immediate problem.

Ireland opener Paul Stirling, a 20-year-old, who plays for English county Middlesex, hit 109, from 107 balls, with seven fours and four sixes, in an innings which even Waqar admitted to enjoying.

"All the spectators would have enjoyed that knock, one of the best I've seen for a while.

"He doesn't slog, he plays proper cricket shots and even I enjoyed every bit of it. He hits the ball far, he has good footwork, plenty of time and he's not scared of the short ball. He looks a promising player."

Pakistan, though, have a young batting talent themselves.

Umar Akmal, only three months older than Stirling, saw Pakistan home on Monday with 60 not out from just 48 balls.

"Umar is a very attacking batsmen, you can't stop him," Waqar said.

"If he sees it he hits it. I'm really pleased with the way he played and he got us home along with Younis Khan (64).

Younis's cool head was just what Pakistan needed after losing three wickets for 80 against Ireland, cricket's leading non-Test nation, who having beaten England at the World Cup in March were stunned to be told the 2011 edition would be restricted to Test countries - a decision that could yet be reversed.

As well as Umar, Pakistan have another promising youngster in fast bowler Junaid Khan, who followed up his success in the Caribbean with another good performance in helpful conditions in Belfast.

"Junaid couldn't get a game at the World Cup but he got his opportunity in the West Indies, bowled superbly in the ODIs there and in seaming conditions he got his chance here. He has a good head on young shoulders," said Waqar.

It was Junaid who ended the Stirling onslaught and he also claimed a second wicket in the final over when he had Gary Wilson caught for a quick-fire 33 which got Ireland up to 238 for eight.

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