Misbah defends not going for target
Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, has said his team's plan when faced with a target of 255 in around 60 overs in Sharjah was to make a good start. When that did not happen, he said, Pakistan had to change their plan and play for the draw, which they achieved to win the Test series 1-0.
Pakistan began the chase briskly, with Mohammad Hafeez lacing a couple of boundaries through the off side, but he was run out in the fifth over and Azhar Ali fell in the 14th. Pakistan slowed down after that and reached 87 for 4 in 57 overs, enough to secure a third Test trophy since Misbah took over the captaincy last year.
"I think we were positive in the start and hoped we got a good start, but we lost two wickets quickly, so we had to change our plans," Misbah said. "They bowled well and the ball was spinning."
The win continued Pakistan's run of not losing a Test series since Misbah took over the captaincy after the spot-fixing controversy in August 2010. In that time Pakistan have won four Tests and lost only one. Misbah, however, said he was still disappointed Pakistan did not win the series against Sri Lanka 2-0 because they had the chance to win the first Test in Abu Dhabi. Pakistan had a 314-run lead after the first innings but a combination of Kumar Sangakkara's double-century and six dropped chances over the fourth and fifth days denied Pakistan the win.
"There is also a sense of disappointment to have not won 2-0," Misbah said. "One bad fielding session in Abu Dhabi spoiled that chance. Kumar Sangakkara played brilliantly and saved them."
While Pakistan were playing in Sharjah, three former players - Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif - were given jail sentences for their involvement in spot-fixing during the Lord's Test last year. Misbah said there had been mention of the sentencing in the Pakistan dressing room but the focus was always on the Test. "Of course, we did talk about that [the sentences] sometimes, but nobody got into it deeply since we are here to play cricket," he said. "We remained focused on the work at hand because we wanted to do well. This is a young bunch of players and they are gelling well. The best part is that every player realises his responsibility and is playing for the team."
While Pakistan's results have been commendable given their off-field problems, Sri Lanka have been in a slump, having not won in 14 Tests since Muttiah Muralitharan's retirement. Tillakaratne Dilshan, the Sri Lanka captain, said their problem was starting series poorly. In England and at home against Australia, Sri Lanka lost the first Test and went on to lose the series 0-1, and in the UAE they salvaged a draw in the first, lost the second, before an improved performance in the third Test.
"It is a sad feeling to lose and we need to start series well," Dilshan said. "We didn't do that in England, then against Australia at home and now against Pakistan."
Sri Lanka were dismissed for 197 and 239 in the first innings of the first two Tests. Dilshan said those performances with the bat were the reason they lost the series. "You saw the difference in this Test, when we put on a total of more than 400," he said. "After losing the second Test the boys put up a good show in this game."
Sri Lanka had started the final day of the series 237 runs ahead with five wickets in hand, and would have been looking to score quick runs and attack Pakistan. However, they were thwarted by the rare occurrence of rain in Sharjah, which washed out the first session. Dilshan said "there could have been a different result" had the rain stayed away.