'Two run-outs were the turning point' - Misbah
Misbah-ul-Haq said that the run-outs of Brendan Taylor and Sean Williams, were the turning points during the third and final ODI which Pakistan won by 108 runs to take series 2-1 in Harare. Led by another fifty from Misbah, Pakistan set the hosts a target of 261 after they were put in to bat. But only four Zimbabwe batsmen could reach double figures as they were all out for 152. While Taylor made a 29-ball 26, Williams scored two.
"I think the two run-outs were very crucial," Misbah said. "After the run-out of Taylor, we were very much in the game and when Williams got run-out, that was the crucial stage. After that, the game was in our control."
Misbah, often criticised for his strike rate, stated that the conditions were not easy to bat on and admitted that he was also struggling to middle the ball before unleashing a few boundaries toward the end of the innings.
"It was really difficult to score runs," he said. "I think they were bowling well, they were utilising the conditions well and we were unable to score runs. All their bowlers bowled really well, especially the way they utilised the new ball in the first 20 overs. Chatara bowled particularly well.
"I was just not middling the ball, not getting the timing right, so you can say [there was] a bit of pressure, because we lost two wickets and Hafeez got injured. But after that, Umar Amin came in and he gave us momentum and finished it well."
Even though they were outplayed in the series opener, Pakistan came back and won the next two games, scoring nearly 300 in the second ODI and then dismissing Zimbabwe for 152 in the decider to seal the series.
"I'm really happy to win this series especially after losing the first game and the way they played," Misbah said. "The biggest lesson we have learnt is: don't take any opposition lightly, especially Zimbabwe because they have some experienced players who have been playing international cricket for such a long time. Even in our team, most of the guys have played less games than Zimbabwean players. We should be giving our 100% all the time and pushing ourselves if we want to win against them [in Tests]."
The Pakistani selectors were criticised before the start of the tour for picking a full-strength squad and not using the opportunity to test new talent. Unlike India, who toured Zimbabwe with a stand-in captain, Virat Kohli, and handed ODI debuts to four players, Pakistan came with their frontline pacers and spinners and only gave a T20 debut to Sohaib Maqsood. Misbah defended the selectors' decision and said their current squad was already full of youngsters.
"The way we played after the first match, I think the critics who kept saying, 'youngsters should have been sent' would have got their answers," Misbah said. "We have players like Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir Jamshed, Umar Amin, Junaid Khan, who have played 15-20 matches. You can't have all your 11 players making their debut. Our team is already new and we have to give this team more exposure and experience. We have three-four players who have been playing consistently and have played over a 100 matches. Otherwise all our players are new. Even when we played with our full strength, they [Zimbabwe] gave us a tough time."
Misbah also spoke about Mohammad Hafeez, who injured his left hamstring while batting and had to walk off the field before coming back to bat again later. He also bowled nine overs and picked up two wickets and was named Man of the Series.
"He's feeling well, it's a little bit of strain," Misbah said. "Let's see how the next two days go and I think he will be okay in two days."
The teams will now play two Tests, beginning on September 3, and Misbah said they will have to work on their fast bowling and fielding to perform better. With changes to the team for the longer format, Misbah said their performances will get better with specialist bowlers and better fielders coming in.
"We will have a new team for the Tests after a lot of changes and we want to improve in our fast bowling, our lengths we are bowling on in these conditions," he said. "We especially need to improve our fielding. With some of the specialist bowlers and fielders coming in, I hope we will get better."