The team director has dismissed the bat, ball and fielding errors that gave Pakistan a rare Test victory on Australian soil.
An emotional Mohammad Hafeez declared Pakistan „the better team” shortly after Pakistan's 79-run defeat in the second Test against Australia at the MCG.
In a thrilling match where Australia couldn't really put any distance between themselves and the visitors until the final half-hour, Pakistan cruised to a target of 317 thanks to a partnership between Salman Ali Agha and Mohammad Rizwan. Needing 98 runs to win with five wickets in hand, but once Rizwan fell, the last five wickets were lost for 18 off 40 balls.
Pakistan team director Hafeez said, We played good cricket as a team. „I am proud of that. The way the team was brave enough to attack well in this game. If I sum up the game, Pakistan generally played better than the other teams. Our batting aim was good, and while bowling, we hit in the right areas. Yes, we did. We made a few mistakes that cost us the game, but as a team, I believe there were enough positives to win the game, but unfortunately in the end we didn't. Win the game.”
As Hafeez noted, Pakistan converted plenty of their own mistakes. Most notable among them were two easy dropped catches – one in each innings – by Abdullah Shafiq at first slip. Each of those mistakes was punished severely, with Usman Khawaja adding 84 in the first session after David Warner was dropped for 2 runs.
In the second innings, when Pakistan were 46 for 4, Mitchell Marsh was bowled by Shafiq off Amar Jamal. Marsh went on to score another 76 and his partnership with Steve Smith added another 123 before he fell to 96.
„We saw that Abdullah was not comfortable there,” Hafiz said. „As a team, you always support your team-mates if something is not going right for them. But we took this decision because we thought he was not comfortable. Babur is a great slip fielder, so why not make a change? He has to take it. Lead and go to first slip, I think it worked well for me as a director because I could see the right person doing the job. Obviously, Abdullah is also a good fielder, but he lacks confidence. Slips.
“These boys have been training together for the past one year. [Abdullah] He did very well as a slip fielder. Fielding here in different situations might have bothered him, but I still believe he is a great fielder. Gone is the hope of being able to walk as a slip fielder. Once that confidence leaves you, you need to take some time off from the role.”
Pakistan conceded 52 extra runs in the first innings with errant bowling and that was crucial in a game where Australia's first innings lead was 54. Pakistan's red-ball loss of wickets continued to trouble them, especially in the first innings when they were 5 for 46 from a very solid position.
„In this game, we were very close but we couldn't win. We made some mistakes and conceded 52 overs, which hurt us a lot,” Hafeez said. „Then to lose five key batsmen from 124 for 1, that was a crucial moment and we couldn't win the game. Then Australia were 16 for 4 and we dropped two catches we should have taken.
„If we had taken our chances and won those important moments, maybe this match would have ended earlier and we would have won. But that's how the game goes; if you make a mistake this game can hurt you.”
The hurt was evident on Hafeez's face as he knew this was Pakistan's best chance since Sydney 2010. A 28-year wait for a Test win in Australia. Despite all their mistakes and some key fringe umpire calls that went Australia's way, Pakistan were in better shape on the evening of day four than they have been in all Tests. The fact that they were only 79 short in a game in which they made several unforced errors will swallow the bitter defeat.
„I would like to wish Australia a series win because they certainly played good cricket. But as a team, I am very proud of Pakistan for showing great courage and great intent and playing with great passion. Win the game, I am very proud of them.”
But it was Australian captain and man of the match Pat Cummins who summed up why the events of the past few days hurt Hafeez – Pakistan – so much. In his trademark, tactical style, Cummins made it clear that he disagreed with Hafiz's assessment that Pakistan was the better side.
„Cool,” he whispered harshly as Hafiz said, „Yeah, they played well, but I'm glad we won. Doesn't really matter, does it? [if they were the better team]. What matters is who wins in the end,” he said.
Tanyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan Correspondent. @Danny61000
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