Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was left wondering what might have been after another batting collapse left his team playing catch-up in the third Test against South Africa.
Responding to South Africa’s 262, Sarfaraz saw his side slip to 53/4 in 25 overs, before he and Babar Azam counter-attacked to lift their side to 169/5 in the 44th over, and in with a chance of matching their opponents’ score. A series of rash shots saw them squander their strong position, but Sarfaraz still felt their positive approach was the correct one.
“I think if you talk about our day, we had a chance to get to 262 runs but we didn't get it,” he said. “When me and Babar were batting, we were thinking we should play positive cricket. Unfortunately, I couldn't score more than 50. If I'd scored 50-70 more runs, the position we'd be in would be much better.
“I think we played a couple of bad shots. I think my shot was also a bad shot, and Babar's too. If you see the last five wickets, there were three bad shots. Mine, Babar's and Faheem [Ashraf's]. If we hadn't played those shots, maybe we'd be in a much better position.”
Pakistan ended up losing their last five wickets for the addition of 16 runs, the latest in a series of alarming batting slides. Sarfaraz recognised how his team’s propensity to collapse was hurting their chances, and that they needed to come up with a solution.
"The problem of losing too many wickets quickly is one we've been facing for the past 10-12 innings. We had the same problem in the first Test match, where Shan [Masood] and Imam [ul-Haq] batted well, and once they got out we lost too many wickets. It was the same in Cape Town, and now the same here. It's a problem we're facing and we have to work on this."
Sarfaraz also again lamented his team’s bowling performance, which he feels has blown hot and cold. On the first day they let South Africa get to 229/3 before reeling them in to 262 all out, while on the second they reduced the hosts to 45/4, but could only take one more wicket as South Africa reached 135/5 at stumps.
“I think our bowling, especially the last 45 minutes, we weren't up to the mark,” he said. “We bowled really well overall but the last one hour we didn't bowl well. At the moment, if you talk about our bowling attack, we are only bowling well in patches. If we bowl well consistently throughout an innings, I don't think South Africa will score as many runs against us.”
Though Sarfaraz rued his choice of shot, his 40-ball 50 was further evidence that he is returning to form, after he made a first half-century in eight innings in the first innings of the second Test.
"If you see my first two innings, my feet weren't moving very much at all,” he said. “My batting style hasn't changed. So I worked on my feet movement, so thankfully I'm playing well at the moment. If you want to score here you have to play positive cricket. Because the good ball is never far away. If you see [Aiden] Markram or Hashim [Amla], whenever they see the bad ball they put it away. If you don't play positive cricket, you will get out at any time.”
With South Africa’s lead already over 200, at some point on the third day, Pakistan will surely be set a mammoth task to claim a consolation win. They will need all the positivity and good form they can get from their captain if they are to achieve it.
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