Poor fielding, no Ajmal cost Pakistan - Misbah
While Pakistan's decision to leave Saeed Ajmal was a 'costly miss', it was their lapses in the field, once again, that let them down in the final ODI against Sri Lanka, according to captain Misbah-ul-Haq. Pakistan looked to be on top in the match on Monday, after reducing Sri Lanka to 138 for 6 in a chase of 248, but Angelo Mathews and a number of lower-order cameos won the match and series for the hosts in a thrilling last-over finish.
"I think we were about 15-20 runs short, yet were in a better position," Misbah said after the game. "Again there were too many fielding lapses and in my opinion this was the difference." Pakistan had put two catches down, and missed several run outs during the course of the chase.
"In the end Mathews took the game away from our hands," he said. "[Jeevan] Mendis played an excellent innings, even [Nuwan] Kulasekara can bat a bit. We know that Mathews is a very good allrounder, he can finish the game. We thought that if we got Mathews out the game was ours."
Pakistan had not played their premier spinner, Ajmal, opting to play three seamers instead. The conditions prompted this decision, Misbah said. "I think given the conditions [we made that choice], the ball swings in the evening … It's a difficult decision to make, regarding the balance of the team. If we play two regular spinners, we miss the third seamer. Leaving out Ajmal though was a costly miss."
Off the three seamers who played, Sohail Tanvir impressed, taking three wickets - including those of the Sri Lanka openers - for 42. On the contrary, in a game where none of his team-mates went at over 4.80 an over, Mohammad Sami leaked 75 runs from 9.4 overs for no wicket - this was the most expensive spell for a Pakistan bowler in an ODI in Sri Lanka. Bowling the final over, with Sri Lanka needing 15, Sami bowled a length delivery that Mathews dispatched over long-on for six, and followed up with a short of a length ball on off stump that was punched through point for four.
However Misbah, while praising Tanvir's effort, still extented support to Sami. "He [Tanvir] showed good control. In the death overs he used good variety and he really was our strength.
"Sami was in good form coming into this game. He bowled well in the Twenty20s and the first one-dayer. Anyone can have a bad day. He was a bit unlucky."
Another big name not in Monday's playing XI was Younis Khan, one of Pakistan's senior batsmen. Younis, Misbah said, was happy to sit out for the cause of the team. "He was out of form. He's always for the team. He said it was okay to give someone else a chance. Besides, before the Tests it's good for him to get some time off."
Pakistan will now play three Tests on the tour, with the first one beginning in Galle on Friday. The last time Pakistan had lost a Test series was in July-August 2010, when they were beaten by England in England. His team, Misbah said, would do well to remember this fine recent record. "We need to forget about the one-dayers and start afresh. We have done well in Test matches in the last two years. We need to recall those performances and start afresh."