Azhar Ali, the Pakistan skipper, says he felt under pressure when he was fighting to score runs in the lost series against England but the thought of resigning from his captaincy role never crossed his mind. Pakistan lost the three-Test series 0-1 as the final Test also ended in a draw on Tuesday after the two teams played out a dull draw in the second game in Southampton following persistent rains.
In the second test between the two teams, only about 150 overs were possible, and in the third Test Pakistan were asked to follow-on after they were bowled out for 273 following England’s massive 583/8. England pacer James Anderson picked up his 600th scalp as Pakistan reached 187/4 in the 2nd innings following on. In the first innings of the third test Pakistan, captain Azhar scored an unbeaten 141 by finding back his lost form.
Azhar Ali Criticized For Poor Form
Azhar faced criticism from former and present cricketers for his run drought before scoring a hundred in the first innings of the third Test.
“No, I remained focussed on this series. This consideration never entered my mind. Yes there was pressure but I was focussed on my performances,” he told reporters when asked if he wanted to quit as captain during the series.
“After we lost the first Test, as captain I had to bear the pressure and criticism. But I vowed to turn it around with my performances and the amount of experience we had in our team management also helped us get over the first test defeat and move on.” England won their first Test series against Pakistan since 2010.
“We are disappointed at not being able to win the series. We came here to not only draw the series but to win it. We got our opportunity but missed it. Credit also goes to England; they took advantage of opportunities,” he said.
England who conceded a first-innings lead of 107 runs, chased 277 runs to win the first Test, were reeling at 117 for five before Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes built a partnership of 139 runs for the sixth wicket and took England home. The victory was an unexpected and thrilling one as England won eventually by 3 wickets after Jos Buttler scored 75 and Chris Woakes remained unbeaten on 84.
Azhar conceded that when one loses a match from a strong position the dressing room atmosphere becomes difficult for a team to rally back.
“Teams fall apart but the good thing is this didn’t happen to us and we remained as a group and fought back in the next Test,” he added.
Azhar Ali said he has always respected the opinion of former players and analysts and takes criticism on his chin.
“As captain only I know what is the situation on the field, what is going on in the mind of the bowlers, what the bowler is thinking, things that people sitting outside don’t know. “Everyone has their opinion and I respect them but as captain you know that in certain circumstances you couldn’t have done that. But I give value to everyone’s opinion but it is true it is different for people who are on the spot and taking decisions.”
“On the spot as captain you assess and take decisions according to match conditions and according to the condition and mental state of players.” Azhar also conceded that he had made a slight change to his stance to get back into form in the third test but said it is never easy to leave comfort zone during a series.
The 35-year-old Azhar made his Test debut before appearing in the limited-overs way back in 2010. Besides 53 ODIs where he has scored 1845 runs, the longer format suits him more as he has an average of 42.86 in Tests where he has accumulated 6129 runs in 81 Tests and 152 innings. He has three double centuries and one triple century.
Azhar Ali Backs Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq and Naseem Shah
Azhar Ali was the highest run-scorer for Pakistan with 210 runs in 5 innings while Babar Azam scored 195 and Shan Masood who scored a century in the first test scored 179 runs.
“When a player has runs under his belt he has a comfort level, but when the opposition has worked on you, it not easy to make changes to your technique in a series. In 2016 also I faced problems in England. But I modified my stance and it worked for me.” Azhar also backed Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam.
“Asad didn’t have a good series but we will continue to back him as he had two good series previous to coming to England. Babar batted with authority in the series and I think you can’t expect a batsman to score big runs all the time. Sometimes you need patience but he is an example for us.”
He did concede that young fast bowler, Naseem Shah needed to gain more experience and learn more as he didn’t live unto expectations in the series.
“He has pace and I thought he bowled against top players like Joe Root and Ben Stokes and he would have learnt and I hope he keeps on improving.”Azhar Ali said
Among the bowlers, Yasir Shah picked up 11 wickets and is jointly second on the top wicket-takers list which is headed by England’s Stuart Broad. Naseem Shah picked up 3 wickets only averaging 69.33 while Shaheen Afridi picked up 5 wickets averaging 51.60.