Babar Azam rues 'dropped catches in clutch phases'

Babar Azam presses forward
August 16, 2021

Having played one of the protagonists in an epic Test match, that really could have gone either way, Pakistan's captain Babar Azam was left to wonder what if.

What if they hadn't lost their two best batters in back-to-back overs resulting in a below-par first-innings total of 217? What if someone had been able to stand with him a little longer as he made a half-century and looked to set up a bigger target than 168? And perhaps most frustrating of all, what if they had held on to their catches?

"That's the beauty of Test cricket," Babar said in his post-match assessment of the team's performance to the PCB. "The way this match panned out - you could see the momentum kept swaying from one side to the other. We tried to give it our 100%. Our boys put in the effort, our bowlers and fielders put in the effort. But in the final session the one or two chances that came our way in the form of catches - had we availed of those, the result of the match could have been different."

At 149 for 8, Kemar Roach pulled Shaheen Afridi to the square-leg boundary where Hasan Ali had to come forward a few yards to get underneath the ball, and try as he might, it just wouldn't stick. That was Pakistan's third dropped catch in the final session. Two of them involved Roach and in the end it was he who scored the winning runs.

"When you drop catches in clutch phases, the course of the match changes. We got two chances but couldn't avail of them which is why we lost the match. That said, we did pull off a few good catches, so you took good catches but dropped a few, so you lost the match."

Babar was equally rueful about a lack of substantial partnerships. He had been in the middle of one in the first innings, guiding the score from 21 for 2 to 68 for 2 with Azhar Ali, but then West Indies removed both batters in the space of seven balls. A similar double-blow resulting in the wickets of Faheem Ashraf for 44 and Yasir Shah for 0 ensured Pakistan could make only 217 after they had been put in to bat.

The same story continued in the second innings and understandably Babar wanted this shortcoming addressed. "If I am to look back on how we performed throughout the match, the partnership Azhar bhai and I put up in the first innings - it was a good one and gave us the momentum but we relinquished it when we got out," he said.

"We then wrested it back and lost back-to-back wickets. In a Test match if you keep squandering momentum from advantageous positions, you struggle to put on a big score. That's something we need to review. A similar course of events took place in the second innings, although we weren't able to stitch together as big a partnership as in our first dig which resulted in a lower target than we had thought of."

While the question of what if will continue to haunt Pakistan, the work that Shaheen, Hasan and Mohammad Abbas put in at Sabina Park was immense and Babar clung on to this positive as he looked ahead to the second and final Test match of this tour starting on August 20.

"I'm quite happy with how they have been bowling," he said. "Their approach and effort, how they seem to be at the ready whenever their services are called upon, and also how they give their 100%. I am quite satisfied with how they bowled throughout the game and hope they'll do well in the next match and help us win it."

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