Pakistan v England, 1st T20, Dubai February 23, 2012

Misbah gets his measures right

There's nothing flash about Misbah-ul-Haq's captaincy but his calm response to adversity helped set a winning platform for his bowlers

It is one of the enduring ironies that a man's greatest strength can also be his greatest weakness. As Pakistan slipped to a 4-0 ODI whitewash, there were those that criticised Misbah-ul-Haq's inflexible approach, his lack of aggression and his inability to lift and inspire a jaded team.

Here, however, as Pakistan claimed a 1-0 lead in the three-match T20I series, we saw all those same qualities transferred into virtues. We saw Misbah's calm in adversity, his measured approach to a crisis and his faith in his team. He is not the greatest tactician or the most talented player Pakistan have ever had, but he is experienced, sensible and unflappable. While Shahid Afridi, still the populist captain of choice for Pakistan, might offer more excitement, Misbah provides reliability. He is the captaincy version of "You miss and I'll hit".

There were several occasions in this game when it appeared that Pakistan would squander their chance. At one point they lost four wickets for eight runs and allowed Graeme Swann to bowl a double-wicket maiden. Umar Akmal and Afridi both hit the ball to fielders in such an obliging fashion that, had they turned down the beds of the England team and left mints on their pillows, they could hardly have seemed better hosts.

There were similar moments in the field. Junaid Khan, with just one man back on the leg side, started with a series of leg-stump long-hops that could scarcely have been more to Kevin Pietersen's liking had they been gift wrapped. Most of all, Pakistan continue to leak runs and chances in the field with remarkable profligacy. The weak throwing of several members of the side and the manner that one or two declined to even attempt half-chances costs the side at least 15 runs a game. To win despite such self-inflicted injury is remarkable.

England, however, will reflect that they should have won. With five overs remaining, they required only 35 runs with seven wickets in hand. True, they have a few inexperienced players in this side, but world champions really should be able to take such opportunities.

The key was, not for the first time, Pakistan's excellent bowling attack. Their experienced trio of spinners was able to exploit the naivety of England's middle order, but the key was a masterful spell from Umar Gul. Gul, back to his best after an oddly off-colour ODI series, gained reverse swing and demonstrated excellent control. It was fitting that the dismissal of Ravi Bopara - perhaps the turning point of the match - came from a perfect yorker. Samit Patel can also consider himself somewhat unfortunate to receive a wicked inswinging yorker first ball.

But Gul's bowling would have been of little relevance had it not been for the contribution of Misbah and Shoaib Malik with the bat. The pair, coming together with their team in some trouble, added 71 in 9.2 overs to provide Pakistan with a defendable total. It was not the swiftest or most exhilarating stand and it was not a daunting target. It was, in its way, classic Misbah: it was sensible, measured batting that gave his bowling attack a chance.

There was some encouragement for England. Pietersen and Bopara timed the ball sweetly, while Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann bowled impressively. Their fielding, while not absolutely at its best, was far superior to Pakistan's as was their running between the wickets. But the recurring problem of their discomfort against spin came back to haunt them once more.

Edited by Alan Gardner

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • a on February 24, 2012, 16:36 GMT

    The last time I have seen a batsman play with such ruthless arrogance (if not contempt) as KP does on song, was IVA Richards.

  • Dummy4 on February 24, 2012, 15:17 GMT

    He is the captaincy version of "You miss and I'll hit" - That line was genius, George.

  • harris on February 24, 2012, 15:15 GMT

    my first look at zia and he look to play on leg to much and before he got out i predicted the slower bowl would get him. personally i dont think hes anything special but i hope he proves me wrong. pakistan needs to have akmal and afridi in the top 4. my team would be hafeez, zia, akmal, afridi, younis, misbah, shafiq, azam,riaz,gul, ajmal, i admit riaz is a risky choice but he can reverse swing and is handy with bat. but he needs to control his no bowls

    afridi at 4 is perfect because he will either come in powerplays if pakistan looses early wickets or come in when spinners are on if thery have good start.

  • M on February 24, 2012, 12:40 GMT

    Won the Match... Luck or no Luck..Win is Win so Well done... I do agree with some of you to play Afridi at 1 or 2 as Boom Boom and keep tuk tuk bats down the order at 5 & 6. Malik's time is up.. give me so many chances I will give you 50 runs every 5th T20....guaranteed... we all (many of us) understand cricket very well and we know Malik and Farhat are NO GOOD anymore...get someone else with more passion and confidence and give them so many chances like dead duo....and Umar Akmal is getting wasted...please let him play 1 down or 2 down....he can be next big batsman if given proper sensible exposer

  • John on February 24, 2012, 11:14 GMT

    @Mazhar Minhas, funny that you should say that, given that most England fans would say that same about England in the Test series.

  • John on February 24, 2012, 9:48 GMT

    @teets7894 on (February 23 2012, 22:31 PM GMT) Fair points. Gul had a good day today but he has days when he goes for runs. Junaid bowled better in the final over but I still feel KP and CK are better with Pace than spin and mixing it up gives him more to think about

  • Dummy4 on February 24, 2012, 8:07 GMT

    pakistan lost One Day Series because negative frame of mind, One bowler like fine are looking dangerous, they only way to attack them. Imran Farhat is totally crap for any kind of format. After losing 1st one day, they must go with Awais Zia type of approach to attack, and let the bowler not settle down. I can see another Gayle here, and he must be polish for both type of Game, no harm to polish him for Test later on. the Key to win is Attack…..

  • Dummy4 on February 24, 2012, 7:42 GMT

    Malik averages more than Mahela in ODIs, & look how Mahela is praised in SL... Not comparin' Malik with KP, as KP is a specialist, but the point is to back your good players (KP was terribly out of form)... They should've played Malik at No. 3 in the 4th ODI! Malik is a GOOD ODI player - excellent fielder, can bowl tidy spells, & he's one the few who can play with a straight bat! If you're lookin' at the stats, half the batsmen in our team have ugly nos. I don't want to even get started on the list, but their averages are terrible (even the leading batsmen last year, if you remove their performances against Zimbabwe, & Bangladesh); it's a miracle that Pak.'s bowling wins them so many matches!!!

  • IMRAN on February 24, 2012, 7:28 GMT

    Poor Captaincy from Misbah - Hamad Azam bowl so well but didn't get to ball!!! Good to see umar & Malik back in form ..... excellent spell & innings respectively.... Overall some improvement seen in Misbah's captaincy .... good batting order, Good team selection , they should have kept similar batting order in ODI, so if wickets fall earlier then MIsbah can tuk tuk for rest of the overs... and if batting would clicked then Pakistan whould have decent run to defend ......

  • Dummy4 on February 24, 2012, 6:36 GMT

    I think the team must open with Awais Zia type of mind set. In T20 and specially against a good fast bowling attack like England, you should attack from the word go, otherwise they will mount pressure on you and you will never recover. So, I think the team combination is perfect, just replace Junaid Khan with Wahab Riaz because he is not into his rhythm at this moment. Give Riaz the confidence, he will be the future prospect and spear head of Pak Fast bowling.

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