The limit of Misbah's miracle
Sometimes it is hard to make sense of defeat. On the brink of rescuing some dignity from the limited-overs half of England's tour, Pakistan threw away any hope of redemption. England bowled and fielded with great heart to underline their determination to remain the pre-eminent side in T20 cricket. But that is no solace for Pakistan fans who are understandably convinced that their team had done enough to win in Abu Dhabi.
A perplexing outcome was made more painful by the familiar sight of Misbah-ul-Haq fluffing another run chase. He wasn't the only culpable player although he was the most visible. Misbah has worked wonders with Pakistan cricket, particularly in the Test arena. He has brought stability to a capsizing vessel. He has been lauded for a whitewash of England in the Test series but he now faces a battle to save his captaincy in one-day cricket.
Misbah has been upset by criticism of his leadership, questioning the media's agenda against him. Misbah's cautious methods have certainly polarised opinion, although that legitimate debate has barely hindered the deserved acclaim that he has received for his record in Test cricket. But it is in limited-overs cricket that Misbah often strikes the wrong chord, out of tune with the match situation, a virtuoso playing to the wrong beat.
Some sections of the media might have an agenda against Misbah but that is a captain's lot. Unfortunately, the evidence of these one-day performances hasn't left Misbah with much sympathy for his case, especially once he linked his defence with support for Shoaib Malik. Pakistan has a strong tradition in limited-overs cricket; the fans know what to expect and are not easily deceived. Indeed, much of Pakistan's recovery in one-day cricket, culminating in the World Cup semi-final in Mohali, was during Shahid Afridi's captaincy.
Leadership is important in cricket, and cricket's different formats require different leadership styles. As such, the Pakistan Cricket Board does face a genuine dilemma. Misbah is clearly the right captain for Pakistan's Test team but he doesn't seem capable of adapting to cricket's shorter formats. If the PCB is in any doubt about the captain or any of its players it should ask itself what Australia would do? It might be harsh on Misbah, and everything he has achieved, but the long-term development of the team must come first.
Is this the limit of Misbah's and Pakistan's miracle?
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here