Sarfraz Ahmed admitted he was gutted as Pakistan fell to only their second series defeat in the UAE.
The hosts were set 280 to win by New Zealand but were bowled out for 156 as the Kiwis won the winner-takes-all final Test and took the series 2-1. It was the first time in 49 years the Kiwis have beaten Pakistan in a series away from home and left the hosts’ skipper to rue what might have been.
“If you look at the series, it was in our hands and we let it slip. We had our opportunities,” Sarfraz said.
“Unfortunately, our lower order couldn’t score runs, even 50-60 from them could be handy but we aren’t there yet.”
Having secured a first-innings lead of 74 Sarfraz’s side were in a commanding position. But having seen a similar lead slip in the first Test, when the Black Caps bowled them out for 171 chasing 176, Pakistan knew they could not take anything for granted —Sarfraz warning them as much midway through the crunch clash in the UAE capital. And with New Zealand brilliantly led by Kane Williamson — whose 19th Test ton in the vital second innings was key to the tourists’ triumph — lightning struck twice as Pakistan’s first-innings lead counted for little come the dramatic final day. They crumbled to 156 all out in 56.1 overs on a weary pitch at Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
Debutant Will Somerville was the star as he took three for 52, having taken four for 75 in the first innings, as Pakistan’s run chase never got going, undone by good tight bowling and, as is their Achilles heel at times, sloppy batting.
The series defeat was only Pakistan’s second out of 13 in the UAE. Next up is a series in South Africa, a daunting task at the best of times, but Sarfraz is determined to be positive heading into the clash against the Proteas.
“The run-scoring responsibility is the batting order’s, but if it comes down to it, the tail should be able to chip in,” the skipper said.
“If we go till the fifth day, we need to bat well, especially with the new ball. That’s an area to work on. South Africa will be tough, but we need to be positive in our thoughts.”
The series saw Test cricket at its most entertaining best, from the Kiwi’s four-run win in the first match to yesterday’s last-day drama. Yasir Shah was named man of the series. The spin king took 29 wickets over the three Tests at 19.03, but admitted the series defeat took some of the shine off his brilliant performances.
“I feel very happy, because I have won man of the series after a long time,” he said. “I try to repeat the right things, and I fixed glitches in my action after working with the video analyst. I just try to focus on doing my best. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t win the series despite the good performance.”
Pakistan have made the UAE very much a home away from home and their record in the Emirates is testament to the fact that they are tough to beat in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Williamson, left, was only too aware of what an achievement it was for New Zealand to beat Sarfraz and Co.
“It was fantastic. Beating Pakistan in their backyard is very tough,” the winning skipper said.
“It feels pretty special, and this will be one that the guys remember for a long time. We knew there’s a lot of hard work to do.
“We felt we had a good first-innings total, but Pakistan played well in their first innings. We know the game can ebb and flow very quickly but we came out and played very well today.”
THIRD TEST — New Zealand 274 (Williamson 89, Bilal Asif 5-65), Pakistan 348 (Azhar Ali 134, Asad Shaifq 104, W Somerville 4-75), New Zealand 353-7dec (Williamson 139, H Nicholls 126*, Yasir Shah 4-129), Pakistan 156 (Babar Azam 51, T Southee 3-42) NEW ZEALAND WIN BY 123 RUNS and WIN SERIES 2-1.