Brendan Taylor: 'Pakistan's death bowling took game away from us'

Azam lauds Riaz and Afridi, but calls for a better performance on the batting front

Danyal Rasool
Danyal Rasool
Brendan Taylor drives on the up, Pakistan vs Zimbabwe, 1st ODI, Rawalpindi, October 30, 2020

Brendan Taylor drives on the up  •  PCB

A despondent Brendan Taylor admitted he felt "lucky" to have received the Player-of-the-match award for his valiant century against Pakistan that took Zimbabwe close to a 1-0 lead. He pointed instead at the man who had ended his vigil at the crease, saying he believed Shaheen Afridi was a worthier recipient of the honour.
"I feel very lucky to get this Man-of-the-match award as I feel Shaheen [Afridi] should have got it," Taylor said at the post-match presentation. "You're up against a very skillful attack at the death and they were too good at the end. It was that skill level at the death that took it away from us."
With little to split the two sides across the best part of 90 overs, it was the two bowling units' contrasting performances in the final five overs at each innings that took Pakistan home. While Zimbabwe had been disciplined - if unspectacular - with the ball for the first 40 overs of the Pakistan innings, sloppiness crept in under pressure, and a few extras and full-tosses allowed Pakistan's lower order to plunder 90 in the final ten overs. A more accomplished bowling attack may have smelled blood after reducing Pakistan to 205 for six, but Zimbabwe aren't quite there yet.
Pakistan, meanwhile, very much are. Most notably Afridi, whose importance to this Pakistan side seems to grow larger with each passing game. When Zimbabwe required 88 off the final ten overs with six wickets in hand, they were ahead in the game at that stage, but Afridi turned things around.
Benefitting from the added pressure after the dismissal of Wesley Madhevere by Wahab Riaz - another key point of differential between the sides - Afridi flummoxed Taylor with a perfectly disguised slower ball that was scooped scooped high up to mid-off, where Riaz dealt the killer blow. It was his third wicket of the night, and he'd come back for two more in his final over for his second five-wicket haul in ODI cricket. His captain Babar Azam was effusive in his praise, saying Afridi's quality gave him comfort even when Taylor and Madhevere were flying high.
"Shaheen Shah gave us an outstanding start, and at the finish, he was brilliant alongside Wahab Riaz at the death," Azam said at the post-match press conference. "I had great belief in him because I know his qualities. Wahab Riaz is very experienced, but Shaheen is building up experience as well, now. That reassured me even when Zimbabwe were in a really strong position. That faith was vindicated in the way he finished the game off."
Azam also praised Taylor's innings, terming it outstanding and saying it appeared as if he was a "one-man show" at times, but lamented Pakistan's performance with the bat, promising improvement in the upcoming games. "When we started the innings the wicket was a bit two-paced," he said. "Some balls came on to the bat really nicely but others didn't. That puts you in doubt and a bit more hesitant to play your shots. I tried to remain positive but it was quite a tricky wicket to get set on, and that makes it challenging for the new batsmen.
"The way we started was unfortunately not up to our expectations. But we were playing ODI cricket after a year and we were all a little rusty, and there are better performances to follow from us."

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000