Babar Azam admitted that poor fielding had let his side down in the third and final ODI against Zimbabwe, saying that Pakistan need to work on that aspect of their game to ensure it doesn't cost them in tight games in the future. Speaking after a pulsating game that Zimbabwe nicked in the Super Over, Azam pointed to some of the dropped catches that had saved centurion Sean Williams, which bloated the target for Pakistan.
"We have to learn from our mistakes. I think it was a good performance for us, but unfortunately, we couldn't quite get over the line," Azam, who scored a masterful century to help tie the game, said. "We need to work on our fielding so we don't drop so many catches. Those catches give good players second and third chances, and that hurt us in the end."
Williams conceded that he had ridden his luck to score 118 not out and, on an another day, could have found himself back in the changing room much sooner. "Pakistan definitely had their chances, I think I got dropped four times, so I thought I'd capitalise on the opportunities and try and build a big, big innings," he said. "If they had taken their first catch, I was on 12, so I think it could definitely have been better on the Pakistan side of things."
With nothing to separate the two sides after 100 overs, it went to the one-over shootout, and some of the decision-making from Pakistan during that Super Over did raise eyebrows. Azam, who had just stroked a chanceless 125 until being dismissed in the penultimate over, didn't step out, and Khushdil Shah, who was making his debut, walked out alongside Iftikhar Ahmed, whose most notable contribution in the series had been a five-wicket haul in the second game. He had managed 46 runs all series with the bat, and that lean run was to continue, with Blessing Muzarabani beating him with the slower one off the first ball to send him back.
The aim is to learn something from every match. We needed more partnerships up at top. Once Wahab (Riaz) and I got our partnership (for the seventh wicket) going. I was hoping we would finish the game, so it hurts.Babar Azam
"The mistakes I made as a captain, I'll ensure I don't make again. In the Super Over, the players we sent we did after thinking through carefully," Azam said. "These are our finishers. They are power-hitters, and we sent Iftikhar because we wanted a left-right combination. Unfortunately, he could not finish it off, but it happens sometimes.
"The aim is to learn something from every match. We needed more partnerships up at top. Once Wahab (Riaz) and I got our partnership (for the seventh wicket) going. I was hoping we would finish the game, so it hurts. But it's not just about our mistakes. We need to give Zimbabwe credit. I thought we bowled well but a couple of things made the difference, like a few misfields and dropped catches. There's a time when our bowling quality dropped from what it was at the start of the match, but that's also because they put us under pressure."
The World Cup Super League, which helps qualification for the 2023 World Cup, means every game, dead rubber or not, has something on the line. And despite Pakistan winning the series 2-1, they missed out on a chance to take all 30 points from the three games.
"There are 24 matches in the WSL, so it hurts to drop ten points here," Azam said. "We'll look at this series when the next one comes, and give 100% because every match you lose means you lose ten points."
It was a sentiment Williams echoed with significantly more conviction, warning that his side was done being content with just competing. "I think we can absolutely beat the bigger teams. We're tired of competing and getting beaten," Williams said. "That's no longer acceptable. It's been way too long and the whole mental approach towards our game has completely changed. Some of the young players in the changing room, like Wesley Madhevere, are remarkably good players. This experience allows those younger guys to play and beat the bigger teams. Blessing has got a long career ahead of him, so there's a lot more to come from us."
He could even afford to be light-hearted about Tendai Chisoro's final-ball misfield that led to the Super Over in the first place. "In a pressure situation, a lot of people panic under pressure. I'm just happy it ended up going our way. I felt we deserved to win that game. It's important that our guys go to that player and pick him up. We're not one to leave men behind. He's going to be a senior player soon and it's important for us to stick together. It's water under the bridge and we move on to the T20s."
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000