Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan coach, was left to rue an age-old Pakistan shortcoming after a third successive Test series loss to New Zealand: dropped catches. Pakistan missed eight chances in the second Test in Christchurch, as well as a couple of more difficult ones at Mount Maurangui in the first. They ranged from the straightforward to the half-chance but all of them were dropped, and given that Kane Williamson was on the receiving end of this generosity on at least four occasions, the 2-0 score-line is perhaps little surprise. The loss also means that Pakistan have now not beaten New Zealand in a Test series for a decade.
“I think the biggest thing in front of us, that we have seen in the past with Pakistan cricket as well, is our dropped chances,” Misbah told the PCB podcast after the series. “I think that has really affected our chances in this series. We missed a lot in both Tests, in which if we had grabbed them, we could have taken the Test further, but we missed them. We need to work on that.”
Pakistan’s fielding was generally poor throughout, continuing a dip in standards that coincided with the departure of fielding coach Steve Rixon in 2018.
Under Rixon, Pakistan, especially their white-ball teams, had become the best fielding side in the country’s history but the board let Rixon go and Pakistan have slipped into older, bad habits.
“The criticism is valid,” Misbah acknowledged. “The people who criticise are those who believe in this team’s capabilities and the potential of this team. And that potential they showed in phases, like in the first Test when we were down and out in both innings but fought and brought it to a stage where we were five overs from a draw, from nowhere. You see that and of course fans then have expectations and then from there when your performance goes down, then the criticism is justified.
Speculation will no doubt rumble along as to the future of Misbah as coach. The board’s cricket committee is due to meet later this month, just before South Africa’s visit, and Misbah will be a topic of discussion there. But there isn’t much time before that series – the first Test in Karachi starts in just under three weeks’ time. There are likely to be changes to the line-up that turns up for that, both in the batting order and bowling attack, though Misbah is looking forward to some home respite.
“That’ll be a good opportunity for us to review and try and improve, and to bring back the confidence that has been shattered in this series,” he said. “We’ll have to plan our own changes keeping in mind home conditions and the South Africa team. In home conditions you’ve played all your life, that gives you confidence. The Quaid-e-Azam trophy has had good performers, so we will look at them too. The mistakes we made here, what we lacked, we need to analyse those and move forward and plan for the next series.”