SL storm Pak­istan’s desert fortress

Sar­fraz blames bat­ting for shock se­ries loss in adopted home

Sport360 - - Cricket - By Ajit Vi­jayku­mar @ajvk1984 ajitvi­jayku­mar@sport360.com

Sar­fraz Ahmed’s presser in Dubai fol­low­ing the Test se­ries de­feat to Sri Lanka be­gan with the fire alarm go­ing off in the conference room. It proved poignant after Pak­istan lost the Dubai Test by 68 runs to sur­ren­der the se­ries 2-0, their first set­back since mak­ing the UAE their tem­po­rary home in 2010.

Pak­istan had high hopes after start­ing the day on 198-5, chas­ing 317, with overnight bats­men Ahmed and Asad Shafiq start­ing off with fifties next to their name.

But once cap­tain Ahmed per­ished for 68 while try­ing to sweep off-spin­ner Dil­ruwan Perera (5-98), the wheels came off and the ‘hosts’ lost inside the first ses­sion on the last day de­spite Shafiq’s im­pres­sive 112.

Ahmed ad­mit­ted poor bat­ting was the main rea­son for the se­ries loss as they failed to chase down 136 in Abu Dhabi and in Dubai, were dis­missed for 262 and 248.

“We lacked a lot in bat­ting. We didn’t play long in­nings de­spite get­ting starts. Like Asad did in the sec­ond in­nings, if some­one had played like that in the first in­nings or pre­vi­ous Test, we could have done bet­ter,” Ahmed said.

“In this se­ries, we faced more trou­ble in our bat­ting. We had fifties, but couldn’t con­vert them into big hun­dreds. We also didn’t have part­ner­ships. That’s why we lost the se­ries.”

Two big is­sues fac­ing Pak­istan are open­ers and the bat­ting po­si­tion of Azhar Ali. Shan Ma­sood av­er­ages 23.5 in Tests while Sami As­lam just

over 31. Also, Ali was pushed to the mid­dle or­der de­spite do­ing well as an opener last sea­son when he scored a triple cen­tury, a dou­ble cen­tury and two tons at the top of the or­der.

“It’s not that we strug­gled be­cause of our open­ers. In both Tests, they gave us a good start (114 and 61 in first in­nings).

“We wanted to have Azhar in the mid­dle or­der be­cause Pak­istan have tasted suc­cess be­cause of a strong mid­dle or­der.”

The form of Babar Azam is an­other con­cern. The mid­dle-or­der bats­man has been out with­out scor­ing five times in six Tests this year, how­ever, Sar­fraz has re­quested more pa­tience.

He added: “This is a young team, new team. Babar Azam is a tal­ented player. His per­for­mances in Tests re­cently haven’t been good. But I don’t think he should be writ­ten off. He needs some time in Test cricket.”

The wick­et­keeper bats­man con­fessed that ul­ti­mately, Sri Lanka were the bet­ter team and de­served the se­ries win.

“Sri Lanka played bet­ter cricket than us. Credit goes to them. Their spin­ners and seam­ers did very well.

“We had ex­pe­ri­enced bowlers like Hasan Ali and (Mo­ham­mad) Amir but un­for­tu­nately, couldn’t get the wick­ets. Their fast bowlers did bet­ter. They bowled in the right ar­eas and picked wick­ets at the right time,” Ahmed added.

Perera had a bril­liant match as he fin­ished with a five-for to go with his three wick­ets in the first in­nings and cru­cial 58 while bat­ting in the first es­say.

Man of the mo­ment: Dil­ruwan Perera ended up with eight wick­ets in the Dubai Test.

Never give up: Shafiq scored a su­perb cen­tury but couldn’t see his team home.

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