Saturday 21st July, 2018
33 ℃ | 39 ℃Abu Dhabi

Pakistan look to seniors to undo Abu Dhabi anomaly

ESPNCricInfo - Friday 6th October, 2017

The real problem, which pre-dates Sarfraz's ascension, is with the batting - one might quip that is an issue that pre-dates the creation of Pakistan itself. The last-day collapses are stacking up, but so too is the pressure on Asad Shafiq.

Shafiq had as poor a second half of the Test as imaginable, first dropping two catches in Sri Lanka's second innings at slip, and then undone by a combination of a good ball and indecisive strokeplay when he was on 20 in the chase. His first-innings 39 was more assured but it bore clear signs of the extra responsibility his seniority now demands. It means he is averaging less than 31 in 16 Tests since the start of the England series in 2016 - a curious run given it includes two memorable hundreds and a handful of important fifties.

Arthur was unequivocal in his backing for Shafiq after the Abu Dhabi Test, insisting that he was a major part of this side's future. But Pakistan don't play another Test till next May, and that too in England, a break long enough to work against a Test-specialist like Shafiq.

Sarfraz - and you'll note a pattern here - is not worried.

"Asad was playing really well in that first innings but just got out. In the second innings he got a good ball. I have full confidence in him - he is our main batsman and I'm confident he will show his form in this Test and hopefully help us win it."

Most of Sarfraz's work in the days since Abu Dhabi has been of this nature - to give his team the confidence that one bad innings does not make them a bad side. Pakistan have chosen not to practice too much in the days since.

"We worked on a few key things that we got wrong, like the fact that we went into our shells and played a little slow when batting," he said. "We've spoken about that, but mostly we've told the guys to play their natural games and to not be scared of failure. One good or bad performance doesn't make a difference. The main thing is we have to back them."

Pakistan don't often go into a Test in the UAE needing to win it to save the series. It has happened only once before, that too against Sri Lanka, nearly four years ago. Then, they produced the memorable Maghrib chase to level the series. Sarfraz played a key role in it, moved up the order to give the chase some oomph. It is the moment where his rise began to where he now sits. And he now admits he should've gone up in the small chase last week. He will learn. Pakistan needs him to.

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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