Zimbabwe v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Harare, 5th day

'Our batting was the culprit' - Misbah

Firdose Moonda in Harare

September 14, 2013

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Misbah-ul-Haq was left unbeaten on 79, Zimbabwe v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Harare, 5th day, September 14, 2013
Misbah-ul-Haq ran out of partners yet again © AFP
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Being gracious in defeat but scathing in self-examination is a Misbah-ul-Haq speciality and he was on top form with it again today. The Pakistan captain was sincere in congratulating an opposition who outplayed his own team and stern in his assessment of a group, specifically a batting unit, who did not play well enough together. 

"Our batting was the culprit on a pitch which was good for batting," he said. "In both innings we couldn't cross 250. We only crossed 300 once in the four innings on this tour. How can you win a Test match without scoring 300 runs?" 

Pakistan were bowled out for 230 and 239 in this match and 249 in the first innings of the previous Test, in which they also piled on 419. But it was the inability to chase on a surface Misbah deemed "at its best" on the final two days which irked him most. 

The demons in the mind far outweighed the almost non-existent demons in the surface, which was feared underprepared because the groundstaff only had two-and-a-half days to get it ready, but actually provided a good contest between bat and ball. "It's all about the pressure," Misbah said. 

"There was nothing wrong with the pitch. We were playing shots and drives which were not there for the first three days because the ball was stopping. So it was all in the mind of the batsman. Chasing in the fourth innings, the pressure makes you make mistakes and panic. That's what happened." 

More than careless strokeplay, Pakistan's batsmen succumbed to frustration against an attack that kept them quiet and tired them with consistency. "They had a set plan in bowling and asked questions of the batsmen which we could not answer," Misbah said. "To do well against bowlers who are good in their own conditions you need experience, patience, technique and a lot of hard work." 

With Younis Khan and Misbah leading the run-charts, the value of old hands is obvious but it also brings to the fore the problems Pakistan's young crop are having. Azhar Ali showed good temperament in the first Test and Khurram Manzoor was promising with his two half-centuries but Asad Shafiq and Adnan Akmal battled, particularly Shafiq against bounce and movement. 

Concerns over the next generation are well-founded and shared by Misbah, who insists they will only learn through experience. "These youngsters were really performing well in pressure series against Sri Lanka and England, but at the moment, they are struggling," he admitted. "Zimbabwe really exploited our inexperience. This morning, we were positive right from the start and decided wherever we can attack them, we'll do it. That's how we approached it but nobody could stand." 

One of the players who put up the least resistance was Mohammad Hafeez, who much earlier in the innings had been dismissed cheaply and scored only 59 runs from four innings. Misbah conceded there was a worry over his performances in the longer format but he was not certain it would lead to changes. "It's a big concern because he was in good form in the ODIs and he did not contribute in Tests," he said. "It's not my decision, it's a board decision so let's see." 

Perhaps the only thing he was pleased about was his own leadership which was, once again, formed by example. But Misbah said his undefeated 79 gave him little joy. "It matters when your team performs. If your team is losing, you really hurt as a captain. You don't want to lose or tie these sort of series. You win matches as a team, you can't win matches as individuals. You really need to stand up as a team."

By "these sort of series", Misbah was referring to the opposition who he said "won most of the sessions" but who Pakistan were expected to beat. Their inability to do so has seen them slip from fourth to sixth on the Test rankings and are certain to cop even more criticism from their fans. 

Misbah resigned to that and said when the fault-finding begins, he will be ready to hear it. "Actually, we'll have those guys for some solutions," he said. "It's easy to say things but not that easy to find solutions." Judging by the numbers already being proposed, Misbah may find himself with a lot to consider before Pakistan host South Africa next month in the UAE.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Dannymania on (September 17, 2013, 5:32 GMT)

@satishchandar I agree 100 percent with this comment. it says it all. The fact of the matter is, that misbah needs to forgive us pakistanis for our mistakes in the past lives and retire now. We are absolutely sick of the defensive cricket that he plays and makes the others play. Yes, he scores runs but Boycott also scored runs..Its absolutely the same scenario.Misbah might also end up getting a SIR before his name but as we know, that didnt make everYone love Boycott.BOycott was a selfish player, so is Misbah.Please retire Misbah.Please yar.

Posted by Desihungama on (September 16, 2013, 20:13 GMT)

@ jw76 - I hear you. But we've always been a bowler friendly team. We've always been hostile to opposition. We leaned that from 1954 tour of England and that's been the Pakistani Brand of Cricket ever since which Ramiz Raja recently referred to as well.

Posted by jw76 on (September 16, 2013, 17:25 GMT)

Haleos - regarding Misbah allowing tail-enders to face too many balls, I think he did the best he could. He did make mistakes now and then, as he is human, but I wonder if you have ever batted in such an extreme situation as he was in. He has not the talent of Younis Khan and others, and he is 39, but by fierce determination he has made himself into a formidable Test batsman. He had to make numerous decisions against tight bowling and tight fielding as to whether to take singles or not, often his efforts to push singles were frustrated by the bowler or field, and most of all he had to ensure simply that he did not get out himself by playing the wrong shot in an effort to keep the bowling. I was there and saw the whole picture - I could see what a tremendously difficult task he had, and he did manage to farm the bowling far too much for my liking! The man cannot do it all himself, and you should rather blame the lower order who failed to give him enough support.

Posted by Haleos on (September 16, 2013, 11:37 GMT)

@jw76 - of course you would be impressed. He won you the match :). I have never seen a top order batsman letting the tailenders face so many balls. Barring VVS of course who was a master of that art. In his case though the tailender performed well and made him a hero. Misbah is unlucky not to have good tailenders. Anyways the fans are right in criticizing him. It hurts if one of your batsman keeps performing but still you loose the match.

Posted by jw76 on (September 16, 2013, 9:23 GMT)

As a Zimbabwean, I am amazed at so many negative comments about Misbah on Cricinfo by Pakistanis. I have been really impressed with him ever since he took over as captain and brought order to a team in chaos. My respect has continued to grow through two tours to Zimbabwe. He is a strong leader who takes his responsibilities very seriously, and if he is slow at times in his batting, it is because he is fully aware of how fragile his batting line-up is and how badly he is needed to stay in there and guide his partners from the middle. He was truly magnificent in the final innings of the Second Test, standing there like a great rock as he fought to the last ditch for Pakistan. No man could have given more. In addition, relationships between the teams on and off the field were good, I hear, whereas in the past many previous Pakistani teams have, let us be honest, been unpopular throughout the world for their antagonistic approach. Pakistan, appreciate a great man!

Posted by Haleos on (September 16, 2013, 8:52 GMT)

@Cpt.Meanster - LOL. 6 misbahs and 60 days of test match to get a result. Pakistan will definitely win provided they bat first and declare after 2000 runs. they will have approx 10 days left to get the opposition out twice.

Posted by Haleos on (September 16, 2013, 8:47 GMT)

It is a trend nowadays for Pakistan. Whenever their batting fails(which is most of the times) their bwoling steps up and wins the match but if their bowling does not fire, they loose. Zimbabwe are good but still Pakistan is a very good team they should not have lost. They bat like they are playing timeless test match. Run rate is not that important but when you get bogged down opposition has better chances to getting you out. Afridi may last 10 balls but he will score more runs in those balls compared to others who would take over 100 for the same.

Posted by   on (September 16, 2013, 7:42 GMT)

We need more quality batsman like Misbah, Unfortunately only he is a complete batsman in this team now, all other are walking wickets. Younis performs once in 5 matches and Misbah 5 out of 5. Even Miandad or Inzamam I don't think were able to perform as consistent as Misbah is.

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