KARACHI: A day after Pakistan suffered one of the most bizarre batting collapses in to enable New Zealand secure their first series victory against them since 1985, head coach Mickey Arthur expressed deep disappointment over the Hamilton Test capitulation.
After reaching 158-1 at tea on the last day of match at Seddon Park on Tuesday, Pakistan lost nine wickets for 71 runs to be all out for 230 as New Zealand won by 138 runs to complete a 2-0 sweep.
Shortly after arriving in Brisbane on Wednesday for the start of Australia tour during which Pakistan will play the hosts in three Tests and five One-day Internationals, Arthur said there was no way Pakistan would have lost the game in Hamilton.
“Yes, it was very disappointing, we had played well through the day in only losing one wicket up until tea but were probably a little short of where we wanted to be runs-wise and we certainly wanted to give ourselves an opportunity to try to win the game,” Arthur said while speaking exclusively to Dawn from Brisbane. “That is how we want to play and look to win first and only then settle for a draw. We have to realise that we are going to lose some games trying to win but that is certainly the brand we want to play.”
The 48-year-old former coach of South Africa and Australia elaborated the plan to play and go for a draw after three specialist batsmen got out but he was shocked to see Pakistan lost their last seven wickets for 31 runs in the space of 92 balls.
“It is very hard to explain to be honest. Once we lost Babar [Azam], Sami [Aslam] and Sarfraz [Ahmed] we decided then to play for the draw because we knew that there was the second new ball available and wanted to have batsmen there to negotiate the draw,” Arthur said.
The coach further expressed his concern over the lack of runs from the Pakistan lower-order batting while emphasising the team needed to improve before saying poor catching was another department that required improvement.
“There is no doubt in my mind we are certainly struggling at the moment. We have worked so hard in these areas and will continue to do that. In Christchurch [in the first Test] we caught extremely well in the slip cordon but then we dropped a few in Hamilton,” Arthur remarked. “Steve Rixon [Pakistan fielding coach] is pushing the boys very hard with their fielding and we will continue to do so. With regards our tail we are really hard on their batting and they are all putting in the time [during nets] we will just continue making it a priority.”
“This was a wicket that required four fast bowlers because to start with it certainly was the most grass I have ever seen on a Test pitch. The conditions on day one also determined that we play four fast bowlers,” Arthur explained. “The problem was we did not bowl well enough on day one to exploit these conditions. And if we had we would have got ourselves way in front of the game.
“Moreover, it was definitely not a 271-run day-one pitch. If we had exploited the conditions it was a 180 pitch at best in the first innings.”
Arthur, who joined the Pakistan team in May this year, stressed adjusting to conditions was another key factor behind Pakistan’s struggles in New Zealand.
“Like all great teams we all do need to adapt quickly. We just have to adapt better to conditions. It is not an excuse but not having a practice game really hurt us in the end because we were just getting to understand and adapt to conditions at the business end of the tour,” he said. “I think adapting is a better word and we see all teams in the world battling outside their home conditions now. We just have to adapt better.
“At the same time we will continue practicing and training in order to equip the guys with a game plan that they are confident in to succeed in the conditions we found in New Zealand and will be experiencing in Australia.”
Commenting on Asad Shafiq’s poor run of scores in recent matches (five ducks in last 13 Test innings), Arthur backed the diminutive right-hander to come good during the Tests against Australia.
“I have a great respect for Asad because he comes across as a quality player with a good technique. I’m sure he would bounce back strongly. In fact, I would like to mention Younis Khan here as well. He is a major player for us and no doubt he will come good in Australia.”
Expressing his views on the coming series, Pakistan’s first in Australia after seven years, Arthur urged his players to showcase themselves at the peak of their powers.
“We just need to be mentally prepared and ready for the biggest challenge of some of the players’ careers. We will leave no stone unturned in the preparation in order to give the player the best chance of success,” Arthur pledged. “It [Australia series] certainly is going to be a massive challenge for us as a team to combat them in the day-night fixture at the Gabba [Brisbane]! Again we will leave no stone unturned in our preparation. The ball will bounce and swing no doubt, we just have to cope with it and adapt.”
The coach hinted swashbuckling opener Sharjeel Khan could be thrown at the deep end during the series Down Under. “That is certainly an option and one that we will consider during the coming few weeks.”
The coach termed the New Zealand tour as a major setback result-wise but expressed better fortunes for his charges in Australia despite the contrasting playing conditions.
“Overall, the New Zealand series was really disappointing as we expect to win every series that we play because we believe in ourselves as a team. But it is important to note that these conditions are completely the opposite to what we get in the UAE and what the players are used to but it is our job to equip them to handle these conditions and perform,” he pointed out. “The Australian tour is a huge one and probably the toughest place to play away from home. We will be working extremely hard to adapt and have success over there,” he concluded.