Mohsin Khan, Pakistan's interim coach, has blamed his team's poor fielding for the draw in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi. Pakistan dropped six catches in Sri Lanka's second innings after taking a substantial lead, including one off double-centurion Kumar Sangakkara and one off Prasanna Jayawardene; the pair put on a match-saving 201-run stand.
"We were particularly good with both bat and ball in the first three days of the match, but our fielding let us down in the end," Mohsin told Pakpassion. "Catches are not dropped on purpose but we dropped some crucial catches at crucial times in the match and we suffered in the end due to those dropped catches."
Mohammad Hafeez spilled three chances in the slips. "We have five or six fielders who can field in the slip region, but some of these boys had minor injuries to their fingers and were unable to field in the slips for long periods, so we opted for a rotation policy in the slips.
"Taufeeq (Umar) was particularly troubled with a finger injury, which ruled him out of fielding in the slip cordon. Sometimes even the easiest of catches are dropped, that is cricket, but there is no excuse for dropping some of the catches."
Much was expected from offspinner Saeed Ajmal on the fourth and fifth days, but he ended up conceding 167 runs in 55 overs and took only one wicket. "There was only a little bit in it for the bowlers, but largely it was a flat pitch ideal for batting," Mohsin said. "The turn that Saeed extracted was slow and the bounce was low, which unfortunately didn't help him. If there had been a bit more pace and bounce in the pitch then Saeed would have been more effective. He bowled very well, he bowled his heart out, he gave his all but in the end the pitch negated his efforts."
Mohsin praised the pace attack comprising Umar Gul, Junaid Khan and Aizaz Cheema for dismissing Sri Lanka for 197 in the first innings on a flat pitch. "I have a lot of admiration for the efforts of young pace bowler Junaid Khan and for Aizaz Cheema. In the immense and, at times, unbearable heat, both of them bowled with great heart and effort in conditions that were very tough for quick bowlers.
"Umar [Gul] has a few minor niggles but it's nothing serious. We feel he is most effective bowling short spells when in good rhythm and it was his first international game back. His efforts in Abu Dhabi will give him a lot of confidence ahead of the remaining matches."
Pakistan were set a target of 170 in 21 overs, but they decided not to go for it. "We decided during the innings break that we would see what the approach from the opposition was," Mohsin said. "We wanted to see what sort of bowling and fielding tactics they were going to employ. Right from the first ball the Sri Lankans set a very defensive field, with men placed on the boundary right around the ground.
"The field set was within their rights of course, but we felt we didn't want to make a mess of things and go for the chase. It was a tough chase in any case, especially against Sri Lanka who are a good fielding side and have a steady bowling unit. We decided that given the field set, we would opt to bat out time."