Dubai: Pakistan squandered their chance to win the first Test match in Dubai on Thursday.
They won the toss, posted a mammoth total of 482 runs. They bowled out Australia for 202 runs, and then refused the enforce follow on despite a lead of 280 runs. After scoring 181 for six they declared setting a target of 462 runs but still they could not win and the match ended in a draw.
Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmad had a tough time explaining why his team could not win despite everything going Pakistan’s way. Australia batted for 139.5 overs to score 362 for eight and ensure a draw.
When Gulf News asked Sarfraz whether he erred in his bowling changes and allowed Australians to get away, he said: “I don’t think so. We had to try something new. We made lots of changes in bowling and when you are chasing wickets you have to take chances.”
Sarfraz justified his decision not to enforce the follow on, too. “We had lots of time,” he said. “More over, we had bowled well (in the first innings). Our bowlers had bowled 30 overs in the day so there was lot of humidity and heat, so we gave them rest and hence did not enforce follow on.”
Sarfraz admitted that it was frustrating not to win the match. “If you see the Australian batting line up, they batted well at the top,” he added. “Their openers performed well in both the innings. Then Travis Head also played well today and Tim Paine too batted well. If we had bowled in the right areas it was difficult to bat on the fifth day. So it was frustrating.”
Sarfraz then sporting hailed Australian opener Usman Khawaja’s knock of 141 off 302 balls. “I have seen one of the best innings in Test cricket, especially in the fourth innings,” said Sarfraz. “The way he batted he took Australia to the draw. He batted very well playing most of his shots, even the reverse sweep, so his was a brilliant knock.”
The Pakistan skipper wants everyone to admire the beauty of Test cricket, despite his team not being able to win. “Look when we went out today we were confident to win the Test,” he said. “We were in a good position and that’s the beauty of Test cricket. Khawaja batted well, no praise is enough for his batting and then Head also supported him. Khawaja played all his shots which are usually tough on the fifth day for a batsman. The beauty of Test cricket lies in this when a team draws from a position of losing after a thrilling contest. We did our efforts but unfortunately the result did not come our way.”
To a query as to whether his strike bowler Yasir Shah did not rise to expectations, Sarfraz said: “Yes, you can say that he played a Test after one year so you have to give him some margin. Yes, he did bowl in first-class cricket but bowling in Tests is different. This was his first match so hopefully he will come back in the nest match, he is our main bowler so we should not let him fall and I hope he will bowl well.”
Sarfraz also had to defend on why Bilal Asif, who took six wickets in the first innings, wasn’t among the wickets on Thursday. “Look, day by day you have to bowl differently. He has got bounce and pace and that is why he got wickets, but you have to bowl with variations. Test cricket is new for him so he doesn’t have much idea, he has also not played too much first-class cricket so it was an experience for him to bowl on the fifth day. If you bowl tight and maiden overs then it creates pressure. He has shown that he is a good bowler and can do well for Pakistan in future.”
Sarfraz also had to justify playing Wahab Riaz, who did not sparkle. “The first reason of playing him was his experience and he has pace,” said Sarfraz. “When there is reverse swing then his pace helps. As far as bowling changes are concerned then we did change bowling correctly. Hafeez had come after bowling action clearance, we bowled him enough as fifth bowler, he is our opener in this Test, so we thought we must stick to our five bowlers. Unfortunately we did not get wickets so people think that we did not change bowling correctly.”