No excuses for failed chase - Mohammad Hafeez
Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan's new Twenty20 captain, has said there was no excuse for his team not chasing 132 in the first match against Sri Lanka, despite them returning to the international circuit after a two-month layoff. Hafeez made an encouraging start to his new role by restricting the hosts' strong batting line-up, but his first-ball duck was the start of Pakistan's slide.
After the defeat in his maiden game as captain, Hafeez was philosophical, admitting that Pakistan were beaten by a better team. He said the pitch was difficult to bat on, but didn't offer that as an excuse for his side crumbling to 95. He didn't attribute the loss to Pakistan's lack of match practice over the last couple of months either.
Pakistan had the upper hand at the start thanks to Sohail Tanvir's incisive new-ball spell and some poor shot selection. Sri Lanka were struggling 96 for 7 at one stage but Thisara Perera's late 32 converted a paltry score to a match-winning one.
"As a bowling unit we did well to restrict them to 132. Tanvir was brilliant with the new ball," Hafeez said. "This was a difficult pitch to bat on and we were hoping to restrict them to 110-120 after getting seven wickets. But in the end Perera made the difference. He took the game away from us."
Umar Gul, one of Pakistan's most effective slog-over bowlers, had a poor game, conceding 43 in four overs. "We also thought that on this pitch, had we batted first, we would have posted 140," Hafeez said. "But we did not finish well when we bowled. Umar Gul is usually our match-winner but today he wasn't able to do that job. Having said that, 132 was still chaseable but if your main batsmen fail then it's very difficult to win such games."
Pakistan were jolted early when Hafeez and debutant Shakeel Ansar were dismissed with the first two deliveries of the chase. The number of dot balls in the first half of the innings increased the pressure, as did Sri Lanka's effective fielding. Two experienced batsmen capable of changing the game, Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi, were sent back by terrific catching. Commenting on Pakistan's approach, Hafeez said there was no specific plan to be watchful after the loss of two wickets.
"There was no such instruction for the two batsmen [Ahmed Shehzad and Khalid Latif] to be defensive," Hafeez said. "They were trying hard and Angelo Mathews bowled a good spell. I think as a batsman it's up to him to decide how to approach the situation, how to build the innings."
Hafeez is leading an experimental Twenty20 side with a few new players, after Misbah-ul-Haq was dropped from the format. He backed the squad to come good ahead of the World Twenty20 in September.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo