Misbah pleased with satisfying tour
Misbah-ul-Haq will leave Zimbabwe satisfied after Pakistan's clean sweep of the hosts across all formats. Three weeks ago, he had said the most important aspect of the tour for Pakistan, apart from winning, would be to blood young players, re-introduce others and integrate as a team. After six victories, one Test, three ODI and two Twenty20s, Misbah believes they have successfully achieved all their goals.
"We've really had some good teamwork, especially today in a close game," he said, after Pakistan's five-run in the second T20. "Everyone performed well, especially in bowling and fielding."
Over the course of the series, Pakistan gave debuts to three players, fast bowler Junaid Khan, legspinner Yasir Shah and batsman Rameez Raja and only Raja did not get enough opportunity to impress. Younis Khan, Sohail Tanvir and Imran Farhat enjoyed successful comebacks and only Shoaib Malik struggled for runs. But, it was one of the old guard, Mohammad Hafeez, who earned highest praise from his captain.
"Mohammad Hafeez has been tremendous over the whole tour. He has contributed with the bat, he has contributed with the ball and I think you can say he was the main factor for us today." Hafeez was Pakistan's only centurion in the one-off Test, highest run-scorer in both limited-overs series and highest wicket-taker in the T20s, with seven scalps at an average of 3.00.
Hafeez's half-century and three wickets in the second T20 sealed the win for Pakistan, after it looked like they had finished 30 runs short. "We were looking for anything around 150-170, we were 20-30 runs short," Misbah said. Hafeez's triple strike winded Zimbabwe, who fell behind the required run-rate and eventually needed 20 runs off the last over.
Sohail was entrusted with defending the total and was left to save six runs off the last ball. His low full toss outside the off stump ensured Zimbabwe fell short of the target. "The plan was to bowl a yorker outside the off stump and he bowled tremendously there," Misbah said. "That ball was excellent, it was really on the spot."
Although Pakistan dominated Zimbabwe through the series, Misbah said he noticed improvement in the hosts and felt they put his team under pressure in Sunday's match. "They [Zimbabwe] did not panic, they just played cool, that was the main danger for us and that's why they came so close."
Brendan Taylor, the Zimbabwe captain, took heart from the way his team performed despite the defeat. "We showed better character, there is no comparison compared to the last game," he said. "All credit to Tatenda [Taibu], he showed his experience. Unfortunately no one could really stick it out with him and get us over the line, but there were many more positives today."
Taibu's undefeated 37 was the most composed knock from anyone of the Zimbabwe batsmen and he came close to winning the match. "We could have got some more singles, singles are very important in T20 and we tend to forget that sometimes," Taylor said. "If guys ran harder and pushed the fielders harder, then over twenty overs you can make five runs. It's frustrating but in the end it was a good game of cricket."
Taylor said the two instances, in the first ODI and the second T20, where Zimbabwe came close to winning, gave them hope that things are getting better. "It's a massive boost for us to know that we are playing good cricket but we need to be a little more consistent."
Zimbabwe have little more than three weeks off before hosting New Zealand and then travelling there as well. "We will have two and half weeks of solid work, on our fitness and specifics. We are going to go away and work even harder than we did for this series. We are willing to learn and we are willing to get better fast so we can prove to the world that we can be competitive."