Misbah-ul-Haq has hailed Pakistan’s maiden ODI series win against South Africa as a “really big achievement”. Pakistan also became the first subcontinent team to win a series in South Africa when they edged the hosts by one run in Port Elizabeth to take an unbeatable 2-0 lead with one game remaining.
“It is a really, really big achievement for us, especially for this young team,” Misbah said. “They are going to start believing that they can perform well. I think that is what we were lacking in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and lost few games which we should have won. It is a good comeback for the confidence of the team. In the future we can come with better confidence, and winning a first bilateral one-day series in South Africa means something to us.”
Misbah praised Saeed Ajmal and Junaid Khan for bringing Pakistan back after AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla had taken South Africa to a winning position. The hosts needed 36 off 38 deliveries with six wickets in hand after de Villiers fell to Junaid for 74 off 45. It came down to 11 off the last two overs, but Ajmal gave away only two in the penultimate over and also dismissed Amla for 98. Junaid then delivered a series of yorkers in the last over to seal the win for Pakistan.
“I was saying to everybody that take it to the last over,” Misbah said. “I know that for the batting side, no matter how many wickets you have, how good a situation you are in, the last over is always a bit of pressure. That is what we were thinking, and when we got nine runs in the last over, the way Junaid Khan was bowling, we had hope. Both Saeed Ajmal and Junaid did really well and were well supported by the field.
“It wasn’t looking like we were in a better position. They were playing really well. But again, when the match comes close, I think it is the batting side which gets under pressure some times. That is what we were thinking, that if we can bowl one good over, and if in the last over, it is more than a run a ball, you never know with two new batsmen at the crease, anything could happen. And that is what happened. Both Ajmal and Junaid held their nerve and bowled according to the field. Junaid executed yorkers really well.”
The turnaround began when de Villiers was dismissed. The South Africa captain said he should have stayed on to finish the game. “I had the game in my hands with Hash out there,” de Villiers said. “I have finished a lot of games like that before. I was on a bit of a roll there and probably (should have) just breathed a little and looked at the situation again. Hash tried to calm me down a bit there. Unfortunately just lost track of where we were going.”
South Africa built their chase steadily, preferring to keep wickets in hand for the latter stage of the innings. De Villiers said that was the plan. “A lot of people would have raised eyebrows after the first 10-15, even 20 overs, watching us bat out there. That is exactly what we wanted. We knew with wickets in hand, with a dangerous middle order, we will always be in the game.
“We went for 20-30 too many bowing first. We knew we had to pull it back somewhere. It was always going to be the last 15 overs, with the Powerplay, with wickets in hand. We timed it to perfection. Just unfortunately we lost too many wickets in the last ten overs.”