The phantasmagorical fourth innings collapse that led to a heartbreaking four-run loss in Abu Dhabi left the dressing room devastated, according to Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur. Arthur was disappointed at the choice of shots under pressure, but backed his players to put it behind them ahead of the second Test.
"Our choice of shots under pressure and the decisions we made were disappointing," he told ESPNcricinfo. "The game was wrapped up and suddenly we had the Babar Azam run out and we couldn't get over the line. It was incredibly disappointing. But everyone's hurting so much. On Wednesday [today] we get together again, we clear the air and we move to Dubai to play the second Test.
He was particularly upset at how winning positions had been squandered. "Chasing 170-odd, we should have got there, that's not the issue," he said. "But we knew the pitch was probably going to be at its most difficult then. We missed our opportunity in the first innings. We needed to nail that first innings and get a minimum of 150 ahead.
"If we got 300 in the first innings, that would be the game done and dusted. That's where we slipped up, because the bowler's did a very good job. We rolled them over for 153 and 249, and that gave our batsmen a target to get. We missed our opportunity twice with the batting, and that's something we'll dissect and digest and remedy over the next couple of days."
What will worry Pakistan fans is what happened on the fourth day was the culmination of a malaise that is clearly more mental than technical. For the third time in 18 months, Pakistan capitulated in the final innings in pursuit of a target they would have been odds on to get comfortably. In Barbados in April 2017, set 187 to win, they were shot out for 81 in barely over a session, and fell short against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi chasing 136. With Act 2 at Abu Dhabi even more dramatic than the others, questions about whether Pakistan can kick the habit will invariably grow, with Arthur revealing he had spoken to the PCB about the prospect of getting professional psychological help for the players.
"This is the second time it's happened in a year, that we've lost in a fourth innings chase," he said. "This is something we need to overcome as a team. Hopefully the next time we're in a position to do it, we'll win it comfortably. I continually discuss with the PCB [the possibility of getting a sports psychologist involved]. We have had discussions around it."
Arthur's emotions are never far from the surface, but he said he hadn't yet spoken to the players. "I wanted to have one or two individual chats but last night wasn't the right time. The boys were hurting too much. Normally, I like to get it sorted out straight after the game but it wasn't the right time yesterday [on the final day of the Test].
"We needed to sit down and have a good discussion about what happened and for that to happen you need guys with clear minds. It wouldn't have had any impact last night. So, apart from a couple of individual conversations in the dressing room, I left it today. Tomorrow we've got a team meeting before we travel to Dubai. Once we move out of the Abu Dhabi hotel, we will have drawn a line under the sand underneath it and we will be very clear about what we need to do to go on and win the second Test match."
The Asad Shafiq enigma continues to be an enduring one, with the batsman hopelessly unable to take that next step into the excellence that fate had supposedly destined him for. In the second innings, with Pakistan 46 runs away from a win and three balls to lunch, he went back to a Neil Wagner delivery that was going wide of off stump, and jabbed his bat at it, like a fencer sizing up his opponent. It caught his outside edge. They might as well have made contact with the iceberg, as the wreck that happened over the next two hours was scarcely believable but yet at the same time, inevitable.
For a batsman who completed 4000 Test runs in that very match and was unbeaten on 45 on a wicket that was notoriously difficult to get starts on, it was an unforgivable lapse of concentration, yet one that Shafiq maddeningly continues to be susceptible to.
"Asad is a fantastic batsman but he needs to kick on, and nobody appreciates that more than him. He got 40s in both innings, but they aren't much good if you don't go and get us a big score. And he hasn't done that. He knows that, he feels that. In terms of him technicality, he's playing beautifully at the moment. It's just the fact that, as I said, he got out in the 40s in both innings. We need him to step up and score big runs for us. And we've made him aware of that."
Arthur defended Azhar Ali's tactics when batting with Mohammad Abbas, saying it was crucial to shield the number eleven from Ajaz Patel as much as possible. Ever since Hasan Ali holed out with Pakistan 12 runs away from victory, Azhar had farmed the strike but struggled to get the runs Pakistan needed.
With almost every fielder being pushed out to the boundary, Azhar settled in taking singles late in the over, attempting, unsuccessfully in the end to crawl his way to the finish line. It was he himself who fell victim to the spinner he was desperate to protect Abbas from, as one beat him with the turn to trap him in front.
"It's just conjecture [whether a more positive approach would have changed the outcome for Azhar]. The problem we had was with the filed spread, we battled to run twos. We didn't get the odd boundary, which was very difficult with the field back, and Azhar had to win it with ones. He was caught there between a rock and a hard place. I feel he played it sensibly, but in hindsight we could have a look at it."
There's a lot to look at in hindsight, and with the second Test starting on Saturday, little time to do it in. Arthur, however, was confident in the capacity of the players to bounce back, praising it as one of the "great qualities of Pakistan cricket".
"The one thing I know about Pakistan cricket is we have the ability to move on very quickly. I'm comfortable we have the ability to move on, I'm comfortable we have the talent and I believe in these boys, I believe in this team and the players and I'm pretty sure we can bounce back nice and quickly."