While captain Misbah-ul-Haq was happy Pakistan managed to get off to a winning start in the three-match ODI series against India, he believes the team still has a lot to work on, especially in the field. Pakistan, he said, were fortunate to walk away with the six-wicket win in Chennai.
"Today we were lucky, India gave us a tough time in this situation. They lost five wickets early but still went on to make 227," Misbah was quoted as saying by PTI. "To win the next match, we will have to work hard and improve a fair bit. We have to really improve our fielding, and our death-over and Powerplay bowling. After these [changes to the] ODI rules especially, we have to improve the bowling.
"Also, we have to improve our batting performances; we couldn't chase the target down easily."
While Pakistan's victory-margin was ultimately comfortable, they lost a wicket off the first ball of their innings when Mohammad Hafeez shouldered arms to a Bhuvneshwar Kumar inswinger. From there on, it was slow and edgy progress for Pakistan, who were 21 for 2 in the 11th over when Azhar Ali lobbed a catch to midwicket. Opener Nasir Jamshed was firm though, batting through the innings for 101 not out, and Younis Khan was relatively positive for his 58, ensuring victory.
The hosts' top order too had struggled in this, one of the rare day ODIs in India. Junaid Khan had India reeling with a remarkable spell of swing bowling, in which he bowled Virender Sehwag, Virat Kohli and Yuvraj Singh in the space of eight balls.
Both Misbah and India captain MS Dhoni said that while it was outstanding bowling, the toss too was important. "It was a good toss to win, but it was an excellent spell by Junaid. There was something for the bowlers but of you don't bowl in the right areas when the ball is seaming, you don't get results," Misbah said. Dhoni agreed: "I think it was the toss to start with. After that they bowled well. When the ball is seaming or swinging, if you pitch it in the right areas it works.
"If you see their bowlers, they bowled up which was good. Generally on these kind of wickets there will be temptation to bowl short because there will be bounce and carry, but they made sure they bowled up and left the batsmen in trouble."
With India tottering at 29 for 5 in the 10th, Suresh Raina and Dhoni began the rebuilding, adding 73 runs. Raina was out short of a half-century but Dhoni, in extremely humid conditions, paced his innings and finished unbeaten. He was 34 off 78 balls without a boundary, got to 50 off 86 and was battling dehydration when he launched, finishing with 113 off 125. The innings won him the Man of the Match award ahead of Jamshed.
Misbah had high praise for Dhoni: "At one stage, it looked as if India would be getting out for 125 but Dhoni's was a brilliant innings. It was more difficult to play in the first half. There was lot of moisture but very well played by Dhoni. He single-handedly took the game away from us, but in the end Nasir too played an extremely good knock."
Dhoni said he would have preferred to have India's top order clicking: "Overall quite happy that I got a century. But going down the order, batting at six or seven, and if you get a 100 ... actually you don't want an opportunity like that because you want your top order to perform."
One of the big concerns for India was the fitness of Kohli, whose ankle gave way under him while he was bowling, resulting in him over-extending his knee. Dhoni said the team would know the details of the injury in "some time". Later, a BCCI release confirmed that while an MRI scan revealed no serious damage, whether Kohli will play the next ODI - on January 3 in Kolkata - is yet to be determined. "All his major ligaments are fine. There is minimal injury fluid in his knee," the release said. "His condition will be monitored, and a decision on whether he will play the second ODI will be taken over the next couple of days."