After losing 3-0 to England's second-string side, Pakistan head coach Misbah-ul-Haq has admitted he was left shell-shocked, citing the "poor performance" as a collective failure of the players and support staff. He said he was left looking for answers on what went wrong.
"You can never defend such performances, it was poor and disappointing," Misbah said in a virtual press conference. "In the first game, we couldn't handle the conditions with the bat. In the last match, the batting did well and got a good total which we should have defended but then the bowling and fielding was disappointing, and that has been a problem throughout the series. So overall I think nobody can defend it and we need to pick it up."
Pakistan haven't won an ODI series in England in the last 47 years, their last win coming in 1974. But despite England's historical dominance over Pakistan, the 3-0 reverse represented a chastening defeat for Pakistan because of the inexperience of their opposition. England were forced to name a complete new ODI two days ahead of the tournament following a Covid-19 outbreak among the original selections. There were eight uncapped players in the England squad, and a further nine with fewer than five ODI caps to their name, with stand-in captain Ben Stokes the only player with 100 or more games.
Pakistan, on the contrary, came into the series with a full-strength squad but lost all three matches, slipping down the World Cup Super League table in the process. The visitors were thumped heavily in the first two games after effective no-shows with the bat, while England chased down 331 in the final ODI, with Pakistan captain Babar Azam critical of the bowling and fielding efforts.
After the 2019 World Cup, Pakistan won three consecutive ODI series, one against a depleted Sri Lanka team, and the other against Zimbabwe, in which Pakistan lost the final game. They were followed by a 2-1 series win in South Africa, which Misbah believed had helped Pakistan gain momentum, but struggles in the middle order have persisted.
"If you look back to our recent series, we were satisfied that we are on a right track," Misbah said. "We had covered almost every department, whether batting, bowling, or fielding, and performed outstandingly. But this series panned out differently and seems like we are still standing where we started and it's very disappointing. We couldn't pick up the same thread where we left. There are different reasons and we have to figure that out how and what really effected and how we can move ahead from this point. Why suddenly we had such a poor series [is a mystery], otherwise this team has been doing great for the last four-five series.
"I don't know what changed in the last month. There was nothing much other than just the PSL and now the boys are totally off-colour. So it's a worrying sign for me as a head coach. I am not looking for an excuse but somewhere we lost the momentum and are struggling to regain it. We have very important T20 series ahead against England, then West Indies and we are looking to sort this out before it."
Misbah, however, urged people to refrain from the blame game.
"You can't just blame coaches or players alone because it's a team game and you work as a team," he said. "If they didn't execute well, then we are equally responsible as well as the players. We do make plans and practice, too. Those bowlers who have to bowl in a certain area and had to hit certain lengths, it was all planned, just not executed on the day. Even when it was executed well, then the fielders didn't support it. If you drop straight catches in crucial stages then I don't think you can win. No one individual is to be blamed but we failed collectively as a team, even players or supporting staff."
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent