Relieved Sarfraz Ahmed silences critics with the bat

Relieved Sarfraz Ahmed silenced critics with the bat

ABU DHABI: Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed having silenced his critics, was a relieved man on Tuesday, with his fighting 94 runs that lifted his team from a tough 57/5 to 282 all out and then ended the first day of the second Test with Australia two down for 20.

Sarfraz was under severe criticism due to his poor form with the bat, having scored just 74 runs in the last six innings. However, when his side was reeling at 57/5, he joined Fakhar Zaman in the middle and played a captain’s inning, missing his maiden ton as a captain by just six runs.

“Yes, the pressure was there, definitely. A lot of it,” he said. “You know it’s coming from all corners. Someone is saying leave Test cricket, somebody is calling to quit captaincy, others are suggesting to drop him, speculations are Karachi guys are supporting him, while a group whining that Lahore players are going at him. So there has been a bit of relief and then to do it in a situation where you were 57/5.”

Pakistan were looking decent at 57/1, losing just Mohammad Hafeez early, who was unlucky to be caught at short-leg off a proper stroke. Australian off-spinner, Nathan Lyon turned the game on its head in a span of his six deliveries, where he hunted four Pakistani batsmen, pushing them to 57/5.

“[Nathan] Lyon, I have said before, that he is now a better bowler, we attacked him four years ago, he now has 300 plus wickets and did well in Bangladesh and India. He turned the ball sharply in a period of 15-20 minutes, we did play some lose shots, but I will give credit to Lyon,” he added.

Sarfraz told that the sudden collapse put him in a shock, he was unable to comprehend the situation and that session was tough to bat. When he got settled with Zaman at the crease, he went for a counter-attack.

“It was a tough situation as a captain,” he stated. “We didn’t know what had happened, so it was a tough session to complete. Afterwards, we planned to attack because it was not feasible to play dot balls considering the situation of the pitch.”

Pakistan’s skipper shared the gameplan saying attack seemed to be the only option to get out of that trouble.

“I bat like this but sometimes you click and sometimes you don’t so I was positive, we had lost half of our side on 57, so I thought that if we attack we can rescue ourselves and myself. So I tried to attack, played shot and got some early runs,” he shared.

Sarfraz had all praise for the debutante Fakhar Zaman, who also scored 94 runs before getting leg before wicket.

“Fakhar played a brilliant knock and I got confidence from him because I like that the other batsman is rotating the strike and he did the same. He deserved credit for doing so well,” he said.

Mitchell Starc hit Pakistan’s skipper on the forearm, after which he received treatment from the physio and then batted in the rest of his inning with an elbow guard. Though it does not seem like a serious injury, but he is unable to move his hand properly.

“I think had it been more forceful then I would not have been able to bat properly after that, but I hope that with icing it will get better,” he said. “The arm is not moving properly, its a bruise, but I think it will have swelling later.”

Pakistan may use Mohammad Rizwan as the reserve wicketkeeper, who is with Pakistan ‘A’ side in the UAE for the T20 series against New Zealand ‘A’.

“I think Mickey was talking to the umpires about a reserve wicketkeeper tomorrow. Mohammad Rizwan is here with the Pakistan ‘A’ team. That time when I was hit I felt pain but I hung on because I was approaching my century,” he said.

Although pitches in Abu Dhabi are expected to be slow and turning, Pakistan captain was surprised to see significant spin in the wicket in the first session a Test match.

“It is strange that the pitch here has behaved like this. It started to turn after 11am, it was surprising as it has never happened before. We have played some 10-15 Tests, it turns but only on the fourth and fifth day. So the way this pitch is behaving we will try to bowl them out early and make them chase more in the last innings,” he went on to say.