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March 31, 2006
Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, felt that his side failed to capitalise on their opportunities after ending the first day of the Test against Sri Lanka in a strong position. After restricting the home side to a paltry 185 in their first innings, the Pakistan batting too caved in and ultimately had to battle to save the match, which they did thanks to a dogged century by Shoaib Malik.
Inzamam told reporters, "When we bowled Sri Lanka out for 185 we were looking to win the game but we missed out on the opportunity when we were dismissed for 176. If we had scored 350-400 we would have had a chance to win."
He was also appreciative of the efforts of Malik and Faisal Iqbal, who put on a crucial stand of 115 for the third wicket to deny Sri Lanka any chance of victory on the final day.
"The boys played really well especially Malik and Faisal. Malik played an excellent innings. If somebody is playing like that, the other team is in trouble," said Inzamam. "I thought the turning point today was when we didn't lose a single wicket till lunch. The boys were confident they could bat out the remaining two sessions because we had eight wickets and 65 overs. We realised we could draw the match because it was difficult to chase 458 runs."
When asked whether Faisal's knock of 60 would cause a selection problem should Mohammad Yousuf return to the side for the second Test, Inzamam replied: "As a captain it is good to see youngsters performing well. I am always happy when there is a problem in the selection because it means there is competition."
Malik rated his innings of 148 under pressure as his best and felt he was settling down well in his new role as an opener. He has opened in his last seven Tests with success, averaging 42.60.
"It was certainly the best innings of my career, including one-day internationals and Tests. I'm just thankful to Allah that He gave me the courage and will to play such a valuable innings for my team when they needed it the most," Malik told The News. "I definitely feel more comfortable and responsible now. I'm happy to play at any position my team wants me to play. If they feel I'm a long-term solution to the opening problems, I'm ready to keep on opening the innings."
Malik showed little emotion when he reached his maiden ton, knowing fully well that his job wasn't done yet, especially with Muttiah Muralitharan in the opposition line-up. He stated: "Naturally, he is a world-class bowler and you've to be careful against him. But I had made up my mind to bat out the entire day and I'm just happy I could do it. My celebrations only started after the game was drawn, for me reaching my hundred was not that important."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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