Misbah stands by decision to play four spinners
Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan's captain, has said he changed a winning line-up for Monday's match to play to the team's strengths. Pakistan had won the second game but, after replacing fast bowler Sohail Tanvir with Shahid Afridi in a four-spinner attack, lost the final match in Sharjah and also a chance to record their first ODI-series victory over Australia in ten years.
"Spinners are our strength. Moreover, everyone knows that the Sharjah track is slow and so opposition players struggle against spin, so we went in with only one pacer," Misbah said after the final ODI. Afridi had missed the second ODI due to a back injury but the decision to recall him backfired, with Afridi failing to contribute much with both bat and ball - he was out for 7 off 6 balls after being promoted to No. 3 in wake of Pakistan's solid opening stand, and then conceded 62 in his ten overs without picking up a wicket.
Misbah said: "I've already said that [bringing in Afridi] was because we wanted to strengthen our spin department, and he bowled okay in the first game. So that is why we just brought him in and went in with one fast bowler. [When batting] we promoted him up the order so that he could get some time to settle in, but unfortunately he could not get runs."
Offspinner Saeed Ajmal was the most potent of the Pakistan bowlers, at one point his bowling figures reading 5-1-11-3. He could have had Michael Hussey, Australia's top-scorer, out without scoring when the batsman got caught in front of middle and leg deep in the crease to one that skidded in. But umpire Billy Bowden turned down the appeal and Pakistan didn't call for a referral. That, Misbah said, was an error in judgement. "That was a big mistake," he said. "We couldn't agree on a decision to take the review, and in the end it proved very costly."
Pakistan's fielding, once again let them down. In the ninth over, Afridi put down David Hussey at mid-on - he leapt well enough to get both hands to the ball, but could not hold on - on 22, and the batsman doubled his score. In the 45th, Azhar Ali dropped a simple chance at deep midwicket to give Glenn Maxwell, who eventually took Australia home, a life.
However, Misbah said, it was not just their fielding that needed improving. "I think we have to improve in every department of the game, especially [with regards to] finding the right combination of fast bowlers - an area in which we are really struggling.
"Also, we have to improve our batting. At important stages of the game we collapse while batting. We have to improve [our batting in the Powerplays] because if you keep losing wickets in Powerplays, that is only going in favour of the other team. We have to understand that Powerplay are only for the set batsman out there; they can play the Powerplay just like Nasir [Jamshed] and [Mohammad] Hafeez did - they took full advantage of the bowling Powerplay, that is the way we have to play the batting Powerplay also.
In Monday's game, though, given the conditions Pakistan's batsmen did decently, Misbah said. "The bigger difference [than the dew] was the behaviour of the pitch and also the outfield. Edges off even spinners went for boundaries [in Australia's innings], but when we batted the ball wasn't traveling. Even if we played the fast bowler to fine leg and third man, it was not going to the boundary.
"I think, also, the wicket was slow in the first innings; it was not easy because ball would stop and come. So whenever a new batsman went in, it was tough for him: the ball was reversing and also stopping, and Australia also used variations effectively. I feel our score, according to the conditions, was good. If we played a bit more well [in the field], I think it was a good total and we held the match if we got a few more early wickets."