West Indies captain Jason Holder has said that the reprieves given to Azhar Ali in the first innings and the large number of extras conceded by the side were factors in their 56-run defeat to Pakistan in the first Test in Dubai. Holder lauded the team, particularly batsman Darren Bravo, for running Pakistan close and taking the match into the final hour on the fifth day despite having been on the back foot for the first three days of the Test.
Azhar was dropped twice in his innings of 302 not out: on 17, Leon Johnson put down a sharp catch at gully off Miguel Cummins, and on 190 by Jermaine Blackwood off Roston Chase's bowling.
"It's tough to say. When you look at the game in hindsight you can say a lot of things. Obviously credit must go to Azhar Ali, I thought he played really well. We put him down; at that stage if we would have held him, we would have had a new batsman in," Holder said. "But that's cricket. If you look at it critically, it's those one or two chances that we missed. In the second innings, Babar Azam getting out off a no-ball. Things like this, if we negate them then we have less problems going forward."
Holder conceded that the bowlers, specially Shannon Gabriel, had some work to do to bring the rate of front-foot no-balls under control. Gabriel bowled 11 no-balls in the entire match, including 10 in the first innings which, combined with other extras, contributed 22 runs to Pakistan's score of 579.
"It's definitely an area we need to improve on but if you look at the scorecard, there were a few no-balls from both sides. It's something we have to pay attention to, Shannon was probably our head culprit. But again, he's that kind of bowler, he runs in and gives it his all. Having said that the amount of no-balls he bowled was unacceptable and hopefully he can correct it going forward in the next Test match."
Holder pointed to West Indies' comeback with the ball in Pakistan's second innings - with Devendra Bishoo's 8 for 49 - and Bravo's maturity and determination on the fourth and fifth days as the positives for the side from the Test.
Bravo followed up his 87 in the first innings with a stubborn 116 in the second innings that helped West Indies climb to within 83 runs of a victory before he was dismissed, and a drawn match was still a possibility after he had been dismissed. The 109 overs in the second innings was the second longest West Indies had batted in the fourth innings of a Test.
"It was a quality innings and I just mentioned that he batted really well in both the second and first innings," he said. "I think he showed a lot of maturity in both those innings and he spent some time and gave himself a chance to get a score. You could see the determination on his face and in his expressions and his body language was just very positive. Hopefully he can continue in this vein and we can lean on Darren Bravo in our batting.
"One thing I am very proud of is the way the guys fought. They came good today and all the bowlers came up with a really good effort on a pitch that didn't give much assistance to them. I can't really fault the effort of the guys, it was a very, very good team effort. Unfortunately we didn't get over the line and unfortunately we couldn't save the game but a hell of a lot of positives we can take from the game."