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January 9, 2010
Pakistan will hope to pick up the pieces from the traumatic Sydney defeat as they build-up to what will now be a dead rubber at Hobart, where the best they can do is avoid a fourth successive whitewash at the hands of Australia.
The squad has taken the 36-run loss hard and Mohammad Yousuf, the captain, has been trying since to lift the side for the final Test, which begins on January 14. "The team was very, very disappointed after Sydney," Yousuf told Cricinfo.
"But as I told them after the Melbourne loss, we have to see that we continue to play good cricket. We could and should have won at Sydney but we didn't. Few people thought that we could match Australia before we came on this tour, but we played very well here for three days and had one very poor day."
The comments would seem to reinforce what has been the main criticism of Pakistan on this tour; that the side hasn't believed at any point they could challenge and topple Australia. The opening days of the Boxing Day Test and the last at the SCG were particularly illuminating, when Pakistan veered between timidity and blind panic.
Reaction in Pakistan has been predictably harsh, which also reveals how eagerly this series was being followed. Jamshed Dasti, head of the national assembly's committee on sports, has been at the forefront of the backlash, asking with force once again for the ouster of the PCB chief Ijaz Butt. This time there might be enough momentum building for it to result in something.
A number of ex-players, as expected, have not held back, asking for the heads of Yousuf, coach Intikhab Alam, the selection committee and a number of other players. "I think we can expect the criticism," Yousuf said. "I'm not saying don't criticise us but maybe it should be more constructive and it should also highlight the positives that have come out from the Test series as a whole."
Changes are expected in the Test side for Hobart and one is guaranteed. In an unusual move indicative of just how seriously they are viewing the loss, the PCB has issued a release stating that Sarfraz Ahmed is not only flying out to Australia, he will also be keeping wickets in the third Test ahead of Kamran Akmal.
The positions of Faisal Iqbal and Misbah-ul-Haq will also come under intense scrutiny; they have one fifty between them in four innings here. However, the paucity of Pakistan's batting resources is such that they will most likely be replaced by Khurram Manzoor and Shoaib Malik, both of whom were dropped halfway through the New Zealand tour. Questions will be asked about why Fawad Alam was so hastily sent back and not tried after one Test failure in New Zealand; that came two Tests after a debut hundred as an opener, a position he had never played in before.
"We have to look at the positives as we get ready for Hobart," Yousuf said. "Nobody can say whether we will win or lose but we just have to play good cricket for the entire duration. We had our moments in the first Test, where we fought hard. We did well for three days in Sydney. I think the positives are that we know we can compete with any side in the world.
"We now need to learn from our mistakes because if we do then we can beat any side out there."
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