India's main tormentor Akhtar earns accolades

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New Delhi, Nov 26 (UNI) Comeback man Shoaib Akhtar today earned lavish praise from his team captain and coach and even from rival skipper for his fine bowling display against India in the first Test here though for a lost cause.

Akhtar, who returned to the side after a 13-month ban for breaching PCB Code of Conduct, took six for 102 in the first Test, including all the Indian wickets in the second innings though Pakistan lost the match by six wickets.

The ''Rawalpindi Express'' bowled with good pace and was incisive in his short spells. The delivery which he clean-bowled Rahul Dravid in India's second innings was almost unplayable. The ball swung into the right hander with a speed of above 145 kmph after pitching between the leg and middle stump to rattle ''The Wall's'' leg stump.

Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik , who had picked Akhtar as the trumpcard for Pakistan in the series, lavished praise on his senior team-mate after his performance in the first Test.

''It's lot ecouraging to see Shoaib Akhtar bowl that way. I hope he will continue like that in the two matches,'' Malik said at the post-match press conference.

Coach Geoff Lawson was fullsome on his praise of the maverick pacer.

''We are very happy. He (Akhtar) is in great form,'' said Lawson after Pakistan lost the first Test.

''After his comeback (from 13-match ban), he has improved a lot.

He is running well, bowling fast and accurate. It is good for the team,'' the Aussie said.

Even India captain Anil Kumble could not help but praise the rival bowler who did most of the damage to his batsmen.

''He (Akhtar) is a good bowler and capable of coming up with match-winning performances,'' Kumble said.

The Indian captain, however, said his side has experienced batsmen who can deal with the Pakistani bowling spearhead.

''We do not plan to counter any specific player. Cricket is a team game, Besides, we have batsmen to deal with him (Akhtar),'' Kumble said.

UNI

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