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Ramiz: 'Pakistan surprised themselves'
Ramiz Raja reflects on the Pakistan's performance in Dubai (07:03)
November 17, 2010
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Pakistan v South Africa, 1st Test, Dubai, 5th day
Ramiz: 'Pakistan surprised themselves'November 17, 2010
Akhila Ranganna: Hello and welcome to ESPNcricinfo. I am Akhila Ranganna and joining me is former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja to look back on Pakistan's performance in the first Test against South Africa in Dubai that ended in a draw.
Pakistan continue to surprise don't they. You can despair about them one day, and they next day they come up with a resilient performance like they did in Dubai.
Ramiz Raja: It was a great performance under pressure and nobody was expecting Pakistan to play the way they did because their track record in 2010 as a batting unit has been abysmal. Their innings average has been around 210 to 220 so they were up against it. But Younis Khan was outstanding and so was Misbah-ul-Haq and because of their partnership and resolute effort not only did they keep South Africa at bay but they also surprised themselves.
AR: It was the perfect script … Younis Khan, in his comeback Test makes a 100 and saves the day for Pakistan. All eyes would have been on him ... how important was this knock for him and the team?
RR: It was a very important knock for Younis and for his career and to impress upon everyone that he is still a great player. He is the only Pakistan player to have scored four Test hundreds in the second innings and this was probably the best of them all because that drawn game smelt almost as sweet as a victory for Pakistan. He is a great batsman under pressure. He simplifies his job really well, he laughs the pressure off and handles it really well. There was a stiff challenge presented by South Africa which he handled well. He read the situation very well: Pakistan needed partnerships and he got Azhar Ali going and then later on batted really sensibly with Misbah.
AR: Another comeback man ... Misbah-ul-Haq, played an important part in saving the Test. He acknowledged after the match that he was under pressure coming into this Test, given he's the new Test captain, so this performance was all the more crucial…
RR: Absolutely. You could see from the way he batted in the first innings that he was under a lot of stress. But this innings will help him a great deal to deal with the extra burden of captaincy and will also make him a better leader. You have not only got to lead the team in the park, but also in the dressing-room and to see the captain in good form always helps. He is a strong character who has made quite a few comebacks so this wasn't a new experience for him. But having said that, his team was struggling, nothing went right for them in the first four days and playing against a top team like South Africa, you need to be in a good frame of mind, so he really challenged himself and in the end it was a very fine knock.
AR: Granted it would have been a world-record chase, but given the way Pakistan were placed, were you surprised that Pakistan didn't make a more concerted attempt to get the target?
RR: I think they could have really gone for the kill but in the end they surprised themselves. They were not hoping for a draw but when they got to that situation they decided to call it off. The strategy should have been a little flexible. Saving the Test was obviously the first objective but when they got to a situation where they could have challenged South Africa then the strategy could have been a little bit more aggressive. But the mindset was absolutely different because 2010 has not been a pleasing one for Pakistan, especially because the batting has collapsed so many times; we saw in the first innings here, after a good partnership the middle order crumbled. So the dressing room was still a little nervous.
Good teams that have been in good nick can challenge themselves when faced with such a situation. Any other good team would have made the charge. I would have wanted Pakistan to have utilised the last 14 overs, not going for the kill, but to let the South Africans know they were going till the end. Even if they had reached 400, it would have been a psychological win for them because it would have told South Africa: we are not going to quit when we meet you in Abu Dhabi and we had the upper hand in Dubai. Psychological scores do matter in a series and Pakistan lost a good opportunity in the end to tell South Africa that they meant business.
AR: What did you make of the way South Africa bowled? Do you think they just let things drift on the final day?
RR: The pitch improved progressively. The fourth day looked a good time to bat and the fifth day also didn't have the kind of variation that you expected. So it became easier for batting. South Africa tried extremely hard in the first two sessions. Only if they had caught better it would have been a lot better for them. The fielding let them down. You cant argue with the tactics because I thought Graeme Smith employed everything that was available to him; it was just bad catching and the fact that the pitch improved on day five.
AR: It's been a turbulent time for Pakistan cricket ... but they have had periods in this Test where they seem to have put things behind them. How does this augur for the future? How do you see them shaping up for the second Test?
RR: They have been through a lot and I have always maintained that they are at their best when they are in a chaotic situation and it has been quite chaotic in the last 12 months. They have got to forget about what happened in the past and start from scratch. They have a a new leader in Tests; their ODI side is not looking bad and they are a good Twenty20 side. All they need to do is string good performances in five-day cricket and not worry about the talent they have lost through the controversies and spot-fixing. There is enough talent in Pakistan; it needs direction and nourishment and it is the job of the team think-tank and leader now to propel them into action. This draw should give them a boost. They didn't win the game but at least they drew it and forced South Africa to think.
AR: Thanks Ramiz for your views.
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