Misbah hails bowlers' efforts on slow pitch
Misbah-ul-Haq has hailed Pakistan's bowlers for the effort they have put in to win matches on the slow and batting-friendly pitches they have often had to play on in the UAE. Pakistan's 133-run win in the second Test against West Indies in Abu Dhabi was their eighth win in their last 11 Tests in their adopted home.
"Thanks to almighty Allah. It wasn't easy," Misbah said, after Pakistan sealed their tenth series win under his captaincy. "I mean, on wickets like that, getting 20 wickets is always a challenge, and I think the bowlers just lived up to the expectations.
"They worked really hard, especially Yasir Shah [who had match figures of 10 for 210], and the fast bowlers also contributed well on this pitch, and I think that was a big achievement, getting 20 wickets on this pitch."
Pakistan have developed a reputation for playing dour, attritional cricket under Misbah, and he said it was a necessary template to follow given the conditions the team played most of its matches in.
"I believe in, first, you just go there and assess the conditions and then, really, within your resources, [work out] how you're going to conduct your gameplan," Misbah said. "If you just stay in your limits and execute your plans according to your strengths, then no matter what the conditions are, you could be successful.
"In the UAE especially, you cannot really change much about your planning, because [of the] slow pitches, and it's really tough to get wickets here, and you have to grind oppositions sometimes. That's simply the format you have to follow.
"But when you're playing in conditions like we did in England and we're going to [in] New Zealand and Australia, obviously we need to change that. There the conditions are different. We're looking forward [to the tours], and obviously we have to play that kind of cricket there to win."
The numbers support Misbah's contention. Teams that have won Tests in the UAE in the last 10 years have, on average, bowled 186 overs per match. In the rest of the world, they have had to bowl only 156 overs on average. And though West Indies lost both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, they batted for more than 200 overs in each match. They have only managed this two other times in 17 Tests since the start of 2015.
Despite their record on the slow UAE pitches, Misbah said Pakistan would prefer playing on surfaces that offered a little more help for their spinners.
"Our spinners are our strength and with Yasir being a world-class bowler, we expect to have turning and spinning wickets but this pitch had nothing for the bowlers," he said. "Today it was fifth day and still was flat and didn't do much but still our bowlers worked so hard to take 20 wickets and its a big achievement."
Yasir bowled 67.4 overs in the match and got through far more bowling than the left-arm orthodox spinners Zulfiqar Babar (43) and Mohammad Nawaz (14). Misbah said this was because there was little help in the pitch for fingerspinners.
"In the first innings fast bowlers had to bowl more because at some stage there was a chance of reverse-swing and that's why spinners weren't utilitied much," he said. "Yasir, being a wristspinner, was helpful but both the left-armers didnt bowl much because of the pitch condition."
Given the workloads the bowlers, Yasir in particular, got through, Misbah said it was natural that he didn't enforce the follow-on despite having a first-innings lead of 228.
"In every innings, you are fielding for over 100 overs, and I think bowling again with tired bodies will be tough," he said. "You've got to give your bowlers some time as it's tough for fast bowlers in such conditions to bowl and you can't have Yasir Shah bowling 40 overs straight in two innings.
"You might get this but then again for the next match you've got to have a complete new XI. So understanding the conditions, weather [is important] and chasing 150 runs in fifth day will be tough, and that is the reason I didn't enforce the follow-on. Rather than pushing our bowlers, you bat and grind the opponent in full."