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Should Misbah-ul-haq have taken his chances?

Misbah-ul-haq © Getty Images
Misbah-ul-haq’s captaincy in first Test against Sri Lanka was questionable © Getty Images

Sri Lanka clinched a thrilling victory against Pakistan on the fifth Day of the first Test at Galle. There were sessions in this Test which belonged to Pakistan, but the aggressive captaincy of Angelo Mathews, an inspiring knock of 221 runs from Kumar Sangakkara and finally a mesmerising spell of spin bowling by Rangana Herath helped Sri Lanka to cross the touch line. Was Misbah-ul-haq way too casual with his approach? Rajarshi Majumdar analyses his captaincy further.

Pakistan has not managed to win a single Test series since 2012. They had clinched a rubber for the last time in 2012 in England. They came close to yet another Test series loss in Sharjah against Sri Lanka in January 2014 when they had to chase down 302 in 59 overs in the final two sessions of the Test match; they had to win the match in order to square the series. With some terrific batting performances from the Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul-haq and Azhar Ali they managed to level the series.

The situation has arrived yet again as the Pakistanis have to win the second Test at Colombo in order to avoid yet another series defeat. The issue, is, however, where did it all go wrong at Galle? Here are the several situations in the match adding on to which Misbah could have overturned the decision of this match:

Misbah-ul-haq’s batting in the first innings:

When he stepped out on the field, Pakistan were 56 for three. He had to play a supporting role as Younis Khan was building his innings to steady the ship. Misbah was too slow and was unable to score as many runs as Younis did from the other end. He could only manage to score 31 but consumed 100 balls. He was also at the crease for 155 minutes, so quite obviously a batsman of his class was expected to figure out the nature of the pitch. He failed to deliver as Rangana Herath picked him up with the help of a beaut of delivery.

Misbah’s on-field strategy

He had to restrict Sri Lanka to a lower total. For that he had to get his strategy correct with field placements and choice of bowlers as and when required. The pitch also played the role of the villain and had nothing in it for the bowlers.

Saeed Ajmal was a big failure too till the third Day, when the rain Gods joined hands with pitch to spoil the party. Abdur Rehman dropped Kumar Sangakkara, then 103, at cover point the very first ball of the fourth Day,. Misbah should have had his best fielders guarding the cover point region. Sangakkara went on to score another 118 runs, which hurt Pakistan real bad.

Misbah’s casual approach

Pakistan came out to bat in the second innings after Sri Lanka posted a total of 533 for nine with a lead of 82 runs. At this point Misbah should have instructed his batsmen that they should bat out the rest of the day without throwing wickets away.

Unfortunately it seemed everything was going against him as Pakistan lost their opening batsman at the end of the fourth Day’s play. And on the final Day, Pakistan kept on losing wickets at regular intervals. They could only manage to take a lead of 98 runs with 20 overs left in the Day. Misbah himself looked way to casual on the field from the very first Day. Pakistanis were sloppy on the field, they dropped catches, and they have leaked easy runs which was completely unacceptable.

The difference in body language of the two teams were visible. Angelo Mathews came up with some inspiring strategies that helped his side to clinch a scintillating victory at Galle. Misbah should pull up his sleeves for the second Test as Sri Lanka will be looking for a clean sweep.

(Rajarshi Majumdar is a reporter at CricketCountry. He played cricket for all age levels under the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) for over 12 years. Apart from cricket he is an avid follower of football, supports Manchester United and a foodie at heart.)

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