Misbah-ul-Haq has said a lack of regulars in the slips has not helped Pakistan © AFP
Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, has that his team “went on making mistakes” in Sharjah to miss out on the chance to end the West Indies series unbeaten. They had won the ODIs and T20Is 3-0, took the first two Tests as well before being upset in the third.
Pakistan could put up only 281 in their first innings. Four players made half-centuries but none of them got past 74. In the second innings, they lost four of their top five batsmen before a deficit of 56 could be erased.
Then, having recovered with the help of Azhar Ali’s 91, Pakistan lost their last five wickets for 33 runs and could only offer a target of 153. West Indies won the match with five wickets and more than two sessions to spare.
“It was disappointing that we didn’t win,” Misbah said. “Overall we didn’t play up to our standards. Our batting was bad, and so was our fielding.
“West Indies played with discipline and we went on making mistakes and lost it. It’s a setback losing a Test match in your own conditions, where you are so good, and to a team ranked lower than us. No matter how good the opposition plays, you really need to come back strongly after that.”
After the fourth day’s play, Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur had felt his team was fatigued and that was why they weren’t as good as they could have been. Misbah, though, put the loss down to complacency.
“We have one thing in mind – to take every game as equally important,” he said. “When you are the No. 1 or No. 2 team, you have to play every match at certain standard to keep that reputation.
“When you have a longish series, sometime, somewhere you relax and I think this is exactly what happened with us. We probably didn’t respect the opposition, which is why we were troubled in early matches and now in this third Test, we made a lot of mistakes.
“However, going into next two series [in New Zealand and Australia] we know how tough things will be. We also know that we are capable and when we play at our full potential we can win matches anywhere in the world. We have lost some momentum with this loss, but we have to regain it and we have to work very hard for it.”
Another opportunity Pakistan had to take control in Sharjah was when the chase began. Despite the smallish target, West Indies appeared nervous. Opener Leon Johnson began his innings by giving two catches for the slip cordon in two overs. Both were put down. Misbah said such sloppiness was the result of a lack of specialists.
“As far as the slip cordon is concerned, unfortunately we had to make some changes to it. Only Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq are regulars. Azhar was hit on the hand so he couldn’t field in the slips, Sami [Aslam] was not in the team before so now we want to use him in the slip.” Misbah said. “We are trying to train specialist slip fielders. Only when you have specialist fielders will you see improvement. So we are focusing on that.”
Misbah-ul-Haq has asked the critics for some patience with respect to allrounder Mohammad Nawaz’s role in the team © AFP
Misbah didn’t appreciate the flak his team received on social media. “At times, we read on the twitter that a slip catch is described as a sitter. Only someone who has not played cricket can say that. Slip catches are never easy, even best slip fielders drop catches.”
The other issue Pakistan have is the balance of their XI. They are keen to have an allrounder at No. 7, as a result of which they drafted Mohammad Nawaz into the squad. But he bowled only 15 overs of left-arm spin in Sharjah, was dismissed for 6 in the first innings but did better in the second, when he helped put on 41 runs for the sixth wicket with Azhar.
“Its Nawaz’s first series so he needs time,” Misbah said “We need someone at No. 7 who can bat and bowl and he has the potential to fill that role for us like Jason Holder does for West Indies. He works very hard, he just needs some time.”
It was learnt that a day before the third Test, Pakistan were set to go in without their frontline left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar. But the team management changed its mind before the toss. Zulfiqar was used for 24 overs in the match, but only three of them came in the second innings. When asked why he was under-bowled, Misbah took aim at the surface in Sharjah. “Take the answer from the groundsman who made the pitch. If the ball doesn’t turn even on the fifth day, then how will you bowl spinners?”
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @kalson
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Source: ESPN Crickinfo