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Firdose Moonda in Abu Dhabi
October 17, 2013
The most important thing about thriving in the desert is the ability to adapt to its harshness. Plants store water, animals spend most of the day preserving energy in the shade and the Pakistan cricket team take wickets on tracks where most attacks toil without reward.
Misbah-ul-Haq credited his attack with dealing a decisive blow to South Africa and paving the way to allow Pakistan to break the visitors 15-match unbeaten streak. "The way our bowlers bowled in the first innings on a flat track, they gave us a good sniff by getting South Africa out for under 250," he said. Mohammad Irfan extracted bounce, Junaid Khan found movement and Saeed Ajmal and Zulfiqur Babar troubled South Africa with turn to ensure Pakistan only needed four bowlers to take 20 wickets.
In comparison, South Africa used seven bowlers and needed 45 and a half more overs to bowl Pakistan out in their first innings. On a surface that offered little assistance to either seam or spin, Pakistan relied on guile to do the job. Misbah said that is something learned through experience and time. "With Pakistan, it's a mental game. We always do well here so we have the confidence and the belief that we can do well."
Pakistan have not lost a Test since making the UAE their adopted home in 2010 and have bowled their opposition out in 15 of 18 innings they've taken to the field in. Their spinners are particularly threatening as England, and now South Africa have discovered. Misbah believes defeating another No.1 team in the world would give the team even more confidence.
"Conditions played an important role," he said. "When you are playing at a venue where you've performed well as a team, its a big plus. You really feel comfortable going in search of a win. I always believed this team has the quality to produce this type of cricket. If we can beat the No.1 side in the world, we can do it against any side in the world."
Pakistan's bowling performance was backed up by batsmen who showed more character than they have in the past, particularly the top two. Misbah ensured they shared the credit for the victory. "That really gave us an advantage. The way they started and the way they were attacking, that made a difference," he said. "By scoring at almost four runs an over they gave us that momentum to press on."
Misbah also thought Khurram Manzoor and Shan Masood did the important job of softening up the South African bowlers and making them question their own plans "When you score only 249 on a flat track. different things go through your mind and bowlers try different things. They want to take quick wickets and go for runs."
He did not have much to say about his own hundred, the fourth of his career, and the first in over two years. When nudged, Misbah admitted it was an innings he will cherish. "It is the most precious thing for a batsman to achieve. Such a satisfaction you cant have doing anything [else]. I really enjoyed that. And we won the game so that makes it something special to remember."
If being home has a feeling, that is what Misbah, more than anyone else would have experienced. The supporters cheered his every move and there were plenty of them in the ground. Given that it was played over the Eid holiday, crowds were larger than predicted with thousands in on every day. Despite the heat, humidity and distance of the ground from the city centre, they filled the grandstand and the grass embankments, brought their drums and their flags and cheered on their team.
"That was wonderful, especially to see that after such a long time," Misbah said. "Usually, you only have this support in one-dayers so it was nice to have it in a Test. I can tell you, it really helped the team. It kept the players motivated. I hope people come to the next game as well."
Misbah has promised the Dubai-based fans they will not be in for a draw because Pakistan are not simply. going to try and preserve their lead. "We have just given clear instructions to the groundsman that we want results. We want to exploit our home advantage," Misbah said. "We are not going to think negative because whenever there are negative thoughts in your mind, you don't get results. Whether we win or lose, we want results."
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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