Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, has said that Mohammad Hafeez's bowling suspension had been an issue for the side but was pleased with the effort that Haris Sohail put in as a part-time bowler in the first ODI. Sohail bowled ten overs for 39 runs before scoring an unbeaten 85 to guide Pakistan to a three-wicket in Dubai on Monday.
Misbah said that while winning the five-ODI series was a goal for Pakistan, the focus was on the bigger picture, particularly the kind of combination needed for the 2015 World Cup in Australia. He said that apart from Sohail, Pakistan were also looking at other batsmen who could bowl a few overs in ODIs, an important area for the side as they look to fill a gap in the bowling attack created by Hafeez's suspension due to an illegal bowling action.
"It's a big issue for us and that's why we've been trying and that's why we played Haris. I think he did very well with the ball," Misbah said. "We are going to try in the next game and see how we can fill in that slot so at least we have a fifth and sixth bowler so we can go into the World Cup with that sort of combination where we have at least six bowlers.
"That's what we have to do because after losing Hafeez in the bowling it's necessary for our team to just have these batsmen who could really bowl and we are looking forward. Ahmed Shehzad is bowling really well in the nets and he has bowled a few overs in the Test matches. Asad Shafiq also bowls."
Misbah credited Mushtaq Ahmed, Pakistan's bowling consultant, and coach Waqar Younis for working on Sohail's bowling over the last few months. Sohail had been part of the Test squad for the series against Australia and New Zealand but did not get a game and Misbah said that he had worked hard in the nets to improve his bowling.
"It was a wonderful performance. He's been with the team for the last two Test series, and credit also goes to Mushtaq Ahmed and Waqar Younis because they had foreseen two months back that we would need to prepare him as a bowler and very worked very hard on him," he said. "Even he has come and spent a couple of hours every day bowling and we benefited from him. As a batsman, we knew he is consistent and makes so many runs, and the kind of temperament he has, but the kind of bowling he did was wonderful."
Misbah was not perturbed by the failure of Pakistan's top order batsmen as the side had stumbled to 86 for 5 while chasing 247 before they recovered through partnerships between Sohail and Sarfraz Ahmed and, later, Sohail and Shahid Afridi. Calling the early batting failure a "rare bad day" for Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez and Younis Khan, he praised Sarfraz's 19-ball 26 that helped Pakistan revive a floundering chase.
"It was difficult. It's obvious that when you lose six batsmen, you are out of the game for a bit. But the way Sarfraz played and shifted the momentum, that brought back hopes of winning the game," he said. "After that, Shahid Afridi and Haris handled the pressure very well. They played sensibly and in the manner that was required. They didn't play loose shots but they took sensible risks and tried to bat through till the end and that was the partnership that won us the match."
Misbah said the side would continue to experiment with their playing XI in the series in order to test their players before the World Cup.
"We are trying different things. We experimented in this game, also. We want to check all the players, also check different things in our bowling because this is the last series before the World Cup," he said. "So the big goal is that we get a good combination before the World Cup and give all the players here a chance, so that we have an idea of the World Cup team. So we will try to bring in changes in the next few games as well.
"We are trying to win the series but the major thinking is on the World Cup in Australia. And keeping that in mind we are doing these things, that's why we played Sarfraz down the order. So in this series, the focus is going to be to get our team together for Australia."