Pakistan v Sri Lanka, 3rd Test, Sharjah, 5th day January 20, 2014

Misbah hails 'amazing victory'


Who would have thought that four days of dull Test cricket would suddenly transform into a thriller on day five at Sharjah Cricket Stadium? And, more surprisingly, who would expect Pakistan to become the fastest team to chase a target of 300-plus target in history? Both things happened, as Pakistan achieved a daunting total of 302 in 57.3 overs at 5.25 runs per over to level the series at 1-1 and stun Sri Lanka. It was truly, as described by Pakistan's captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, an "amazing victory".

"The biggest victory for me is 3-0 against England but, as a match, it's a very, very big victory for the team," Misbah said. "As a game, this was one of my best victories but still I think I rate very highly our 3-0 victory against England, [when] we whitewashed the No. 1 team. But the match we won today - I guess we haven't won chasing like that, so it's an amazing victory."

The series in UAE had been a tedious one but day five of the third and final Test turned into a dramatic contest. In the final session, with loud music suddenly filling the stadium, Pakistan went at a rapid pace to reach the target. Azhar Ali, the No. 3, blazed 103 off 137 balls, with six fours, and Misbah remained unbeaten on 68 as Pakistan won with nine balls remaining, for their second-highest successful run chase in Test matches.

Misbah said his men lived up to expectation and played like a unit. Dav Whatmore, Pakistan's outgoing coach who has now finished his contract, may not have been expecting such a send-off on his last day but Misbah was pleased that Whatmore could leave on a high, despite failing to win a Test series during his time in charge.

"It's always important, because he had been working with us for the last two years, so we have an attachment and you always want this type of thing if somebody leaves you," Misbah said. "He finishes on a good note, so I was really praying for that, we should win it for Pakistan and win it for Dav so that we can say we have given him a good send off. It was really a much-needed win for us as a team, to level the series, and to send off Dav it was also important.

"It's a great effort and all the players showed the will to win the game, so I am really happy, especially for the youngsters. Azhar Ali's performance, Ahmed Shehzad in the first innings and Sarfraz [Ahmed in the second], Mohammad Talha bowled really well, so it's really pleasing for Pakistan cricket."

Pakistan seemed to have given up on winning the game, as things coasted on day four, but after bowling Sri Lanka out for 214 in the morning session, the players made a positive decision over lunch. "There was no pressure, a clear message was there when our innings started. We sat together and in the meeting we decided we are going for it at any cost, whether it turned into 2-0, no problem, but we will try to make it 1-1," Misbah said. "I think there was clarity in the minds of our players, and all were positive, me too, especially after youngsters had done their partnership, it was easy, you [just] had to score run a ball. Thanks god we have won the match."

Pakistan's openers gave the team a perfect start, hitting 35 in six and a half overs, before Shehzad lofting to deep square leg. The run rate kept on fluctuating but remained around five runs per over throughout, apart from the third-wicket stand between Azhar and Younis Khan, when the scoring rate started to dip for a while. But Sarfraz, promoted to No. 5, and Azhar swaggered along during their partnership of 89 in 14.5 overs.

"It was easy for us once Sarfraz played that innings with Azhar, that was an important partnership and brought down the required run rate to almost 5.5," Misbah said. "They also cut down the target to 120-something, so that was simple, we could continue to play at the same rate. Don't let it go up [above] run-a-ball, that was our main target. Nothing much was happening with the wicket so that was the target."

Pakistan's next Test series is in nine months, against Australia, and Misbah said that was not ideal. "When you win Test matches, you gain confidence ... had there been a Test series in near future, it would have benefitted us. This team has been notching such victories, like winning against England and winning a Test match against South Africa."

"Except for Younis Khan, we don't have many players who have played more than 50 Test matches that's why you see sometimes we suffer collapses and we face problems and our performances are not consistent. Whenever they play up to their potential, they win such matches, if they play consistently and gain experience their performances will get better and better."

Misbah said playing Australia after a gap of nine months will be challenging. "Australia, South Africa, England they are all very professional teams and against them you need to be focused and you have to play with a lot of hard work because they come out with lots of plans. So, I think it will be a big challenge for us to play against Australia but it would also be challenging for them to face our spinners in these conditions. I think we will try to play the way we played against South Africa and repeat the same performance against them."

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on January 23, 2014, 6:45 GMT

    Hardwork always pays. Misbah came to Pakistan cricket team at a time of worst crisis, match fixing, terrorism and players politics. He showed the real power of self confidence, discipline, sheer hardwork, one dimensional focus on team work and consistency. Misbah in some ways better than a lot of Pakistani captains. The best thing about him, he puts his head down and talk with his performance. A gem o role model or international cricket. I am hopeful that keeping the tradition alive Pakistan cricket board and players will try to make him down in an ugly way. But the best thing about Misbah, he is really good in all departments especially off the field. Good luck Misbah.

  • Android on January 23, 2014, 5:02 GMT

    I really think we are forgetting someone. We are definitely forgetting Sarfaraz Ahmed. To me his innings was of the greatest importance. It was only because of him Azhar Ali relaxed and Misbah took his time

  • Dummy4 on January 23, 2014, 2:14 GMT

    Great victory, good team work, commendable captaincy.

  • Imran on January 22, 2014, 22:00 GMT

    well done misbah and other guys, Great win. Pakistan must look after the fitness of their Pace attack. Irfan and Gul must come to play with junaid. keeping bhatti and anwar ali on bench strength. I think Asad shafeeq should be replaced by Sohaib Maqsood or Umer Akmal for number 6 spot in test matches now. Taufeeq Umer is far better opener than khurram manzoor, he can do keeping as well in required circustances. he should be brought back in test side. my test side for next series would be... (1) Taufeeq Umar (2) Ahmad Shahzad (3) Azhar Ali (4) Younas Khan (5) Misbah (6) Umar Akmal or Sohaib Maqsood (7) M. Rizwan (8) Ajmal (9) Rehman or Gul (10) Irfan (11) Junaid ............... (14) Bhatti (15) Haris Sohail

  • imran on January 22, 2014, 16:29 GMT

    A good Win. Well done guys . I was a fan of SL team but looking at approach towards the game a bit Disappointed.

  • Muhammad on January 22, 2014, 12:55 GMT

    Congrats Pakistan!! Soon Pakistan will be a side to beat. Pool of players is getting bigger and better. Players like Haris Sohail and Shahzaib Hassan are in line. Good news is that all the player now know that they place in the as long as they are performing. Example is axing of Hafeez from Test. I know I never thought to see this day but I am glad I did.

  • Arham on January 22, 2014, 12:14 GMT

    Misbah really was magnificient throughout this whole tour.A truly great captain who leads from the front

  • ESPN on January 22, 2014, 11:17 GMT

    I wouldn't compare Imran khan with Misbah. Imran did contribute in the final by scoring crucial runs with Javed Imran khan is a legend not just in but out of cricket to. A great victory to Pakistan Misbah a great leader and he's been leading from the front for years all the best to Misbah Let's hope he can bring us another World Cup down under inshallah

  • Ali on January 22, 2014, 10:01 GMT

    "me too, especially after youngsters had done their partnership, it was easy, you [just] had to score run a ball - Misbah" what a humble guy. The best captain from Pakistan. I never liked Imran Khan. He was self praising selfinsh guy. HAd it been Imran he would have sáid "ist me who has won u this match otherwise you would have lost this". He still say that WC 1992 victory was bcoz of him. Even though he had no contribution in that victory. It was Wasim, it Was Mushi, It was Miandad, It was Inzi. but not Imran.

  • Dummy4 on January 22, 2014, 8:53 GMT

    All credit to Misbah and his boys. 95% of the time, other teams would not attempt such a total at that asking run rate, regardless of whether they were 1-0 down. If Misbah can start converting his very poor ratio of 50s to 100s, then I would put him amongst the all time batting greats.

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