Pakistan v South Africa, 2nd Test, Lahore, 5th day October 12, 2007

Malik: 'South Africa deserved to win'

Shoaib Malik: no disgrace in the series defeat © Getty Images
Pakistan's captain, Shoaib Malik, admitted that South Africa had "batted better, fielded better and bowled better," and were therefore deserved series winners, after the second Test at Lahore petered out to a draw. Pakistan could at least take something from the final day of a series in which they were never dominated. A win was improbable, a draw honourable, but only in the context of how this series has gone.

Younis Khan's second century of the series - a little more steel added to the flamboyance of his first - briefly suggested there might be a late, final push for victory. But his dismissal, swiftly followed by that of the man of the moment Inzamam-ul-Haq, put paid to that plan.

"When Kamran [Akmal] and Younis batted together really fantastically, we had a chance," said Malik. "We were planning, when Younis and Yousuf were playing, that we survive till tea and then take a chance to win the match. But losing back-to-back wickets changed our plans and we went for the draw."

Had they stolen it, it would have been unjust, for Pakistan were outplayed for most days of the series. An unbalanced bowling attack, coupled with absent and returning players, made Malik's first Test series as captain tougher than he would have imagined.

Malik insisted Pakistan's strategy to rely on spin had been correct, though he also acknowledged that a switch of formats in such quick time proved more difficult for his side than South Africa.

"Our strength is spinners who can get opponents out twice," he said. "You have to get 20 wickets in Tests, but we dropped a few catches. The bowlers did all they could on the type of wickets we had.

"Playing Tests after so long made a difference. It's difficult to change from formats but we tried very hard in this series. We were playing Tests after seven months and for that, the boys played really well."

Malik's own form with the bat will come as some relief to him; doubts about his place in a starting Test XI will not go away, but they will recede. To be there at the end as Pakistan saved the Test was also handy.

He admitted, though, that he had learnt a thing or two as captain. "Even putting cricket aside, every day is a new day. When you lose you learn a lot more. If you can remember your mistakes when you win, even in that there is an advantage. In these two Tests, I have learnt a lot of things that I hope to utilise in the future."

There is no difference between 1-0 and 2-0, it is said in these situations. Given the way this Test has run, Pakistan and especially Malik might argue with that. Malik began this series with an antagonistic press conference or two, and a loss. He has ended it with his bat having passed minor tests, an honourable draw and an open honest press conference. In any language, situation or context, that is some progress.

Osman Samiuddin is the Pakistan editor of Cricinfo