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Firdose Moonda in Harare
September 14, 2013
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 correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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