Pakistan head coach Misbahul Haq has praised the team for its commitment and belief in the Southampton Test match against England following a heart-breaking three-wicket defeat in Manchester.
“It was always going to be difficult to fight back after what happened in Manchester but the players’ commitment and belief was outstanding.
“We believe that we can come back in the final Test and it’s so important to us that supporters back home and around the world share that belief with us,” Misbah wrote in his column for the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Wednesday.
Pakistan recovered from 158 for six to 236 all-out and then had England reeling at 110 for four when the rain-affected match ended. Just over 143 overs of play was possible due to bad light and thunderstorms.
“It was a brave decision to bat first in the second Test given the conditions but everybody took on the challenge. Overall, I’m really happy with the way the team batted. Everybody just tried to hang in there and score runs.
“Partnerships involving Abid Ali, Azhar Ali and Babar Azam at the top of the order were really pleasing and encouraging in testing conditions,” he said.
Misbah stated that the bowlers’ performance in England’s short first innings would give his side the momentum required going into the third Test, which will take place in Southampton on Friday.
“We expected the pitch to deteriorate towards the end of the match and it did. Even with just a couple of hours of sun at the end of the match, Yasir Shah was able to challenge England’s batsmen.
“The seamers also bowled really well and I was really happy with the way we finished the match. That last session, even as the game drifted towards a draw, gives us a lot of confidence going into the last Test.
“It’s a big game and we want to end the series on a good note.”
Misbah also praised wicketkeeper/batsman Mohammad Rizwan’s gutsy and fighting 72 that came off 222 balls and included seven fours. According to Misbah, fitness was one of the key factors behind Rizwan’s performance.
“Rizwan fought really hard so that we had a decent score to put a little bit of pressure on England. He showed glimpses in the first Test, when his wicketkeeping was also wonderful, and against Australia in Brisbane last November.
“Rizwan has great game awareness and we’re really happy with the way he’s performing. It is important that players, especially new ones, show they can perform under pressure and his innings in Southampton will give him a lot of confidence.
“Fitness has been an important part of our strategy as a team since I took on the role of head coach last September and we have seen its benefits in the two Tests so far.
“The players have taken ownership of their fitness levels and they should be given credit for that, especially after three months at home during the Covid-19 pandemic. They know having supreme fitness will help them perform under pressure.
“Rizwan is a great example of that in the way he ran between wickets and batted with the tail. Shan Masood also showed it in the first Test, batting for almost eight hours, and running really well with Shadab Khan.
“The way they stole quick singles is something that you don’t see much of in Test cricket and certainly not from a Pakistan team. The partnership brought us back into the game in Manchester and it was purely down to fitness.”
Shadab is one of the fittest guys in our team, he added.
Commenting on the ongoing debate about bad lighting and the potential use of the pink ball, he said: “In these unusual circumstances, there is room to debate on these issues but the pink ball is very different to the red ball and I’m not sure that using it for a whole match in daylight is a good idea.
“I think most people prefer to see Test cricket played in the conventional way, which means with a red ball — that’s the beauty of the game.”
Misbah once again took the time to appreciate the support of the fans. “In testing times, support from fans makes a huge difference.
“I’m happy [with] the way the players have fought and we always need support whether we win, lose or draw. Especially in these conditions, when there is no one in the ground, supporting comments on social media can really lift an individual player and the team.”