West Indies captain Jason Holder has credited Shoaib Malik as the catalyst for Pakistan's series-clinching victory in the second ODI at Sharjah. Pakistan had lost two wickets in three balls to bring Shoaib to the crease at 40 for 2 in the sixth over, but the allrounder scored 90 off 84 balls and teamed with Babar Azam to add 159 for the third wicket to put Pakistan back on course for a match-winning total.
"If I go back to our innings when we bowled, I just felt we leaked too many boundaries at a crucial stage of the innings," Holder said after the game. "I thought Shoaib Malik played an outstanding innings. He changed the impetus in terms of the middle overs. I think he put us under some pressure in the middle overs which we probably didn't react to as well as we would like."
Holder defended his tactics after the game when asked if he had attacked enough with Pakistan two men down inside the Powerplay. Sulieman Benn, who Holder said was his best bowler in the first ODI, was held back until the 19th over, but Shoaib responded to his arrival by hitting him for a six in his first and second overs before striking three more off consecutive deliveries in the 27th.
"Our most successful bowler in the last game was Sulieman Benn and he was taken to by Shoaib Malik," Holder said. "Again I thought Shoaib truly changed the momentum of the game there. I didn't think Benn bowled badly but I just think he got on top of Benn at that stage. I went to my two wicket-takers and Sulieman Benn at that stage. He got the better of Benn today."
The West Indies captain also paid tribute to Babar Azam, who top-scored with 123 for his second century in as many games. Holder had encountered Azam at junior level too and said his batting pedigree was just as strong then.
"I first saw Babar a couple years ago in Under-19 cricket and he scored a hundred against us there," Holder said. "He's a good player. I felt he played really really nicely. He assessed the conditions quite well and he took his time. He was able to take his time in both innings. He had lots of overs to bat and I think credit must go to the way he played. Having said that as I said before, we could tighten up a bit more especially on the boundaries that we leaked and I think once we do that we can make it a lot more competitive.
Facing a target of 338, Holder said he felt it was not out of reach. However, a clump of wickets fell between the 35th and 45th overs, disrupting momentum at a pivotal time.
"Chasing 330 odd, you really need to stay up with the run rate," Holder said. "We fell behind, not too far behind quite early but I still felt we were in the game with 20 overs left. We had bargained for 160 odd to chase in 20 overs or probably 180 odd in the last 20 but at the end of the day we were probably too far behind. It was a lot to do for the lower half. I thought the Pakistani bowlers bowled well and made it difficult for us to hit."
Despite the loss, Holder remained positive about the improvements made from the first ODI loss. He highlighted Alzarri Joseph's performance on debut - 2 for 51 in eight overs - and said the team had done well in certain periods but that the team needed to find more consistency to come out on top.
"There's still quite a few positives we can look at," Holder said. "Alzarri Joseph making his debut today I thought he was pretty outstanding. Kraigg Brathwaite coming into his second game, he showed a lot more promise, a lot more fight. Darren Bravo getting a score as well and Marlon Samuels continuing his good form. So still a few positives to look at. I just think we just need to bring together that one complete game."