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Misbah-ul-Haq: It will be a 'remarkable achievement' if Pakistan win the series

The head coach is confident after Pakistan's fighting effort in the second ODI even though they lost the match

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
Misbah-ul-Haq is confident going into the series decider  •  Getty Images

Misbah-ul-Haq is confident going into the series decider  •  Getty Images

Pakistan's fighting performance in the second ODI, even though they lost the match, has given head coach Misbah-ul-Haq the confidence that his team can win the three-match series. If Pakistan manage to do so, Misbah feels, that will be a "remarkable achievement" for the side.
Since 2010 and before the ongoing series, Pakistan had a 6-7 win-loss ODI record in South Africa, and in 2013-14 became the *first side from the subcontinent to have won a bilateral ODI series in the country. This time, Pakistan came with a relatively inexperienced squad but managed to keep the series level at 1-1 going into the third match. Now they seem to have the upper hand as five of South Africa's first-choice players - Quinton de Kock, David Miller, Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje, and Lungi Ngidi - have left for the Indian Premier League.
"The way we played the first two games, and won the first ODI, the team is confident," Misbah said in a video released by the PCB ahead of the third ODI. "This team has now started to believe they can win or reach a winning position out of nowhere and the previous game was one big example. I have always said that it's a young team and for them, every win is important. Now it is a decider in South Africa's conditions and if we win, it will be a remarkable achievement not only in the series but in another perspective. It's really important for the sake of team confidence."
Fakhar Zaman's 155-ball 193 almost took Pakistan over the line during their 342-run chase in the second ODI. In the opening ODI, Babar Azam's century set up the win that Pakistan secured dramatically, on the final delivery of the match. Misbah urged the under-firing middle order to take inspiration from those two and capitalise on the starts provided by the top order.
"If you look at the Wanderers and Centurion pitches, they are purely South Africa conditions," Misbah said. "They have bounce and pace and if your batsmen from top order score hundreds and dominate the opponent, it surely going to inspire the other players in the team. They all look up to them as an example and it gives them confidence going forward.
"In the top order, Babar contributed and then Fakhar in the second ODI did great but moving down in the middle, we need to improve and capitalise on the good start. Looking at the team performance overall, it's quite good but in certain areas, we need some improvement."
Pakistan bowlers, Misbah said, are putting in good efforts with fast bowlers - Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf and Mohammad Hasnain - troubling the South Africa batsmen with pace and bounce. While Pakistan conceded 341 in the second ODI, Misbah backed them to come strongly in the final match.
"If you talk about the first game our bowlers bowled really well. In Centurion, the average total is 300 or plus but we restricted them to 270-odd. In fact, we could have stopped them around 225 but one good partnership changed that. Overall, it was a good effort by our bowlers though in the second ODI we gave away a little more because we didn't get the early breakthrough. The credit should be given to the other team as well. They played well too but I think two big overs were the difference, which actually dented us. This bowling is fine with a blend of match-winners who have done well and you can't judge them with just one or bad day. They will come hard in the next game."
*April 7, GMT 0237 The story earlier stated, erroneously, that Pakistan were the only subcontinental team to have won an ODI series in South Africa. India have done so as well, in 2018.

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent