The hosts completed a crushing victory on day four having set the Aussie a mammoth target of 538 to capture the two-match series 1-0. Abbas was the star of the show for Pakistan once again with the pacer picking up another five-wicket haul to take his series tally to 17.
“I think it was a great win today and credit goes to all my bowlers, especially Mohammad Abbas. The way he bowled throughout, he was the main factor for us winning the series,” the Pakistan skipper stated following the culmination of the series.
“I think they (Australia) did not prepare well for him, looks like they took Abbas lightly. Again, credit goes to Abbas because the pitch was not suited for fast bowlers. The way he was bowling, he was the best bowler from both teams,” he continued.
Asked if he was surprised by Australia’s capitulation, Sarfraz replied: “I am not surprised. If you see the two teams, both are lacking senior players.
“If you see the way we played the first match, we almost won but unfortunately couldn’t. The way we played this Test, despite losing five early wickets and not starting well, I am not surprised. Credit goes to my team.
“The way we came back shows we are more mentally stronger than Australia. Credit goes to Fakhar Zaman, he played really well with me. In the second innings, Azhar Ali played really well along with Fakhar, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam. All batters did well. If you see the performances in the two Tests, Pakistan were the better team.”
Terming the series victory as a ‘much needed’ one for Pakistan, Sarfraz praised the team management for allowing debutants like Zaman to flourish.
“We really needed this win. The way the team has performed in the two Tests, be it the batsmen or bowlers, was commendable. The win was needed and coming to Zaman, he played really well,” Sarfraz said.
“The players who have made their debuts under my captaincy, everyone has created a huge impact. This means our team management has given them complete support. We support them fully and they have repaid that faith by performing,” he added.
Despite the convincing margin of victory, the Pakistan skipper believes his side needs to improve in a few areas.
“I wouldn’t call it the best Test team yet since there are still a few areas we need to improve. We gave away too many soft wickets for my liking and I intend to discuss this with my batsmen.
“We have shared dressing room with the likes of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq earlier. Younis bhai use to tell us to go for big scores in Test cricket once you are in and that is an area we need to improve. Apart from that, we need to improve our spin department which is usually our strongest aspect. We also need another fast bowler apart from Abbas who can perform in all conditions.”
The Test also saw Pakistan veteran Azhar Ali fall to a comical run-out in the second innings.
Giving his take on the incident, Sarfraz said: “When the ball went towards the boundary, I thought it was an easy two. Then I saw what happened and was shocked.
“The entire team was shocked and we were scratching our heads in disbelief. These things happen, sometimes you don’t get as famous for scoring a triple ton than you get for a run-out.”
Australia have been trying to shed their ‘aggressive’ image following the ball-tampering and sledging scandal earlier this year. However, Sarfraz, who had a spat with Nathan Lyon in the middle while batting, admitted that things did get a little heated.
“We weren’t talking about culture but something else. We had an ongoing spat. They are going through a process after their recent happenings and are trying to change their image. However, it wasn’t like the atmosphere was totally polite in the middle. There were other things going on there,” the wicketkeeper-batsman explained.
Sarfraz did not take the field on the fourth day after sustaining a blow to his head on Thursday but the skipper revealed that the injury is nothing serious.
“Yesterday I was hit by a ball by Peter Siddle. Today when I woke up early morning at 5, I was experiencing some headaches. I had it checked at the hospital and underwent some MRI scans. Everything is clear. The doctor said I have a mild concussion and advised me 48 hours of rest,” the victorious skipper said.
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The 24-year-old had to be stretchered off the field after collapsing on the pitch while bowling in the clash against Pakistan and has been out of action ever since.
“It wasn’t about Pakistan. It was disappointing to get injured like that. You can’t control these things. Now I’ve got the time to get fitter and stronger. I always take things positively. This injury was a blessing in disguise. I got time off from cricket. After this, I won’t get much time off,” Pandya said in an interview with the Times of India.
“My recovery is on track. I’ve been busy with my fitness sessions and physiotherapy. I don’t know when (I’ll return to action), but right now I’m only focusing on getting fully fit,” he added.
Having made an electric start to his international career, Pandya has gone off the boil in the past year or so with many former cricketers like Sunil Gavaskar questioning his credentials as a seam bowling all-rounder.
Pandya, though, isn’t taking the criticism levelled at him in a negative way.
“Why would it hurt? They’ve played so much cricket. Let them say it. It’s OK. I’ve heard them so much. I respect that. I’m worthy enough that they’re talking about me. If I wasn’t, they wouldn’t have said anything about me! I take it in a positive way,” he explained.
When asked which all-rounder he would like to emulate, Pandya replied: “I love Jacques Kallis. The way he managed his workload, the number of games.
“He played in all the formats of the game and was still fit. My goal is to be as fit as him.”
Though he remains sidelined due to injury, Pandya has already set his sights on winning the 2019 World Cup for India.
“My individual, and the team goal, right now is getting the World Cup back. It’s my biggest goal. I want to give more than 100 per cent to make sure that we win the World Cup,” the all-rounder said.
“That’s why right now, I’m focusing on improving my skills, fitness, mentally I want to get stronger. Because that 10-15 per cent (extra) would be very critical. I’ll give 100 per cent, but if I can give 10-15 per cent more to my game, then it would give me great comfort, and I’d be able to do a lot of things which I’m not able to do now,” he added.
The Kiwi limited-overs openers sustained a strain on his left calf and his name has now been withdrawn from both the T20 and ODI squads for the series.
The 32-year-old, who picked up the injury during a first-class game for Auckland, is expected to be sidelined for four to six weeks at least.
“Unfortunately for Martin it will take him some time to get over this injury,” New Zealand selector Gavin Larsen said.
“And, with a long summer ahead, we need to make sure we minimise the risk of him repeating it.”
The tour of the UAE is set to be newly appointed coach Gary Stead’s first assignment and will see the Black Caps take on Pakistan in three T20s, three ODIs and three Tests.
Two spots in the limited-overs squads had been left open for the best performers from the New Zealand A team which are currently in the UAE. With Guptill’s injury, an additional spot is now up for grabs.
“Gary Stead and I will work through the possible replacement options. We now have three spots to fill in the T20 and one-day squad,” Larsen stated.
New Zealand’s tour of the UAE gets underway at the end of the month with the first of the three T20s taking place on October 31.