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Dangerous times for Sarfraz Ahmed

Sarfraz Ahmed calls his team into a huddle after they set Australia a daunting target Getty Images

If last year's series loss to Sri Lanka marked the end of a record, this inability to force a win on the final day of a Dubai Test should be seen as the true end of a legacy. Don't be fooled by the closeness of Australia's escape. An Australian side, it is worth stressing upon here, without their two best batsmen, and arriving with a record in Asia of 12 losses in their last 15 Tests.

Two good balls, two mistakes, might still have consigned them to a 13th, and eight wickets down allowed Sarfraz Ahmed and Asad Shafiq - two seniors in the side now - to get away with talking about the beauty and realness of Test cricket. This is what happens some times. This is why it is a test, why it is a wonderful game, that you get this close after five days and it's just not close enough. You just have to doff your hat to the other side.

It's a free world, just about, and if that's what they want to believe they have the right to do so. Sure, Australia played their part and Usman Khawaja was a mountain. But it's an easy out because it masks the lack of control Sarfraz in particular and as a result Pakistan exerted over this second Australian innings, across the fourth and fifth days. Only when Khawaja fell, just inside the final hour, and brief periods post tea on the fourth day and post lunch on the last day, did Pakistan look like the Pakistan side that, in these conditions and in these circumstances, has come to own the fourth and fifth days of Tests.

Pakistan were not perfect in the Misbah era, far from it. They weren't a world-beating side but a spirited and skillful side. But when it came to the UAE and these kinds of situations, Misbah knew precisely what he was doing and what he wanted.

You may not have agreed with his philosophy - broadly speaking, that in the modern age choking, with in-out fields, is attacking - but you had to admire how resolutely he clung to it so tightly, like if he let go, some part of him would go away with it.

On occasions such as this, he was a master; slowly, gradually tightening things until batsmen couldn't breathe. He would set out plans with his bowlers but most importantly he knew how long to persevere with one. Not everyone agreed with him, but everyone agreed there was a plan and that it was being implemented until there was another plan. He had a grasp of the game, its situations, what batsmen did and didn't like and when, the angles that worked on them best. Here, remind yourself.

Nobody expects Sarfraz to be Misbah. But it wouldn't have been a bad thing to absorb some of his traits, not least his commitment to a clearly laid-out plan, especially because a number of the tools at his disposal remain the same. Misbah knew, above all, the truth of UAE Tests: he who is patient eventually and mostly wins.

Here, Sarfraz, and as a result his bowlers, couldn't stick to anything long enough to know whether it would work or not. There were plans but it felt like each time Khawaja reverse swept Yasir Shah - and it happened upwards of 20 times - Sarfraz and Yasir's lines and angles changed with it. Yasir was not at his best, but on those occasions when he wasn't landing it right, Misbah would helicopter-parent him through: here's your plan, do nothing but stick to it for the next six overs. Even in the first innings, now polished by that collapse, it took Pakistan over 40 overs before they found a plan they stuck with at Aaron Finch and Khawaja.

This was an exceedingly poor game for Sarfraz. The decision to not bowl Mohammad Abbas until 15 overs into the final day - a sixth of the way through the whole day - was the work of a captain who had lost his feel for a moment. Sarfraz justified it by saying they wanted Wahab Riaz's reverse and pace against the two left-handers but Wahab was so clearly out of sorts, with little control over reverse, and Abbas was the game's best bowler.

And even if that was the plan, why wait 15 overs to bring the best bowler of the Test on, as the fourth bowler of the day? You can overlook the defensive, in-out fields he went to so early when Australia began, the missed reviews as well (even though that is in danger of becoming a pattern) but this? The plan pre-play had been to start with Abbas and Yasir so if nothing else, the change suggests the captain and think tank are not on the same cricketing wavelength.

These are now dangerous times for Sarfraz. His has been a strange captaincy in that there have been moments where he has shown a really sharp feel for the game, where he has been forceful and combative. And then he oscillates to days like this, when he is meek and frustrated - few captains wear the harassment of the job as clearly as he does - and out of sync.

Captaincy in all three formats effectively trebles the impact of every result and there's been a spate of poor ones. Whatever the team may say publicly, this draw is as good as a loss. He's not scoring runs and if you had to choose one way to not be dismissed, it would be the kind of careless run-out that caused his downfall here. The triple whammy is the continuing missed chances. He missed an early stumping of Khawaja off Yasir in the first innings. Then he had a very public go at the bowler for a tardy bit of fielding a few overs later. There isn't enough credit in his bank to keep doing that.