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Fragile batting lets Pakistan down again

Younis Khan turns it into the leg side AFP

Even in the final match of the tour, Pakistan's concern was the same as in their first match: the batting was not up to standard. This time it was not the fault of the pitch or the bowlers. Despite the inconsistent bounce, the return of Morne Morkel, the fire of Dale Steyn, the discipline of Lonwabo Tsotsobe and the committed fielding of their opposition, Pakistan's line-up still conspired to entangle themselves.

Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Farhat fell to a plan but everyone else from Kamran Akmal to the tail caused their own downfall. Either they picked out fielders, like Shahid Afridi did, or they chanced an arm like Akmal and Shoaib Malik.

"That's the one area which really let us down," Misbah-ul-Haq said. "When you look at the scorecard, everybody got starts like 20s or 30s but no-one converted and made that into 70s or 80s. If the six main batsmen keep doing that, the team can't do well. The way we started, we felt 250 would have been a good total but the shot selection was not good and there were a lot of irresponsible shots. We can only blame ourselves. The way we batted was unacceptable."

For a while, especially during the Test series, Misbah explained the batting collapses by making reference to the conditions. He said Pakistan's line-up had not been exposed to pace and bounce in a while and that they needed a longer period of adjustment. He was not simply making excuses.

Pakistan had not faced a challenge as tough as South African pitches since they played in England in 2010 so he made a valid point. They had only one tour match before starting the Test series, which obviously was not enough, and they made noticeable improvements as that went on.

"The shot selection was not good and there were a lot of irresponsible shots. We can only blame ourselves. The way we batted was unacceptable"

Misbah-ul-Haq

The same strips are not as tough a prospect as the Test matches but with two new balls and late-season surfaces which can go up and down, they still require some analysing before a batsman settled in. That's why in the final throes of the tour, Misbah still harked back to the difficulties of "adjusting to conditions, especially for the batsmen."

It was a rare occurrence when someone gave themselves time to assess and play themselves in. Misbah himself did it twice, Kamran showed glimpses, Younis Khan tried and mostly failed and Hafeez could not even try because the bowlers had his number.

Younis, and Hafeez in the opening role are two points of debate that came up throughout the series. Indications are that Younis, despite his 7,000 one-day runs, will be forced to make way for a younger batsman like Asad Shafiq and may have played his last match in coloured clothing for Pakistan.

Similarly talk is rife that Hafeez will be asked to bat at No. 3 and more will be invested in Nasir Jamshed to partner Imran Farhat or Kamran Akmal at the top. Misbah would not be drawn on whether those are two of the changes Pakistan would consider ahead of the Champions Trophy but he hinted something would have to give before then. "We will have to go and look at conditions, which teams we are going to play, all of those things and then see what we need for the future."

One thing that does not need tampering with, according to Misbah, is the team's culture. Despite their return of just three wins from nine matches across all formats on the tour, Misbah could draw some positives from the outing. "We started poorly in the Tests but we tried to come back. We made mistakes like we did today, especially in batting but the team showed some character.

"They showed that even when they are down they can fight back so overall there were some positives. In South African conditions, with such a tough opposition, the team did well especially in T20s and ODIs."