'Batting mistakes almost cost us game' - Misbah
Pakistan's captain Misbah-ul-Haq has expressed his concern over the performance of his batsmen, after a series of rash shots from them had left his team tottering on 117 for 6 against Afghanistan. Speaking after Pakistan's 72-run win, Misbah said their mistakes could have cost Pakistan the match, had Umar Akmal not rescued them with a century.
"I think at one point the match had almost gone out of our hands," he said. "If Umar Akmal hadn't played that innings, we would have had a lot of problems. As a batting unit, I think if we continue to repeat the same mistakes, it will be a big problem for us. We have a very important match against India coming up now, so we have to avoid making these kinds of mistakes. We have to take responsibility, especially as a batting unit."
Asked if he was thinking of shuffling Pakistan's batting order to try and prevent these mistakes, Misbah said he would back his batsmen to pick up their performances.
"These things happen," he said. "If you see the last series, our top three made us win the whole series against Sri Lanka. No. 4, 5 and 6 didn't even get to bat much in that series. So I think, they are good players and in good form. Yes, two matches have gone and they have struggled, but I hope that in the next matches, which are important ones for us, someone of them will step up and make important runs for us."
Since his debut in 2009, Akmal has been the leading run-scorer in wins at the No. 6 position in ODIs. Asked about his record at that spot, Misbah said he was pleased with Akmal's success as a finisher.
"I think he has been doing well for Pakistan," Misbah said. "You could say he could have done slightly better than this, but from the last year and a half, I think he's really doing well at that number, finishing games for Pakistan and scoring runs at crucial stages. I've been really happy, especially with the way he played today. I think that's what we want him to do, to finish games for Pakistan."
Misbah praised Afghanistan's bowling and fielding, when asked if the Associate team had presented Pakistan a tougher challenge than he had expected.
"Afghanistan is always like that," he said. "They have a decent bowling attack and a very good fielding side, and I think they proved it today. They bowled very good lines and they were very disciplined. Their fielding was supporting them. I think they are an improving side and they can really put you under pressure on a given day."
Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo