Pak vs Aus, 3rd Test, 2021-22 – Babar Azam
“There were continuous discussions about chasing the total down, but when your main batters are dismissed, you start thinking differently”
Set a target of 351, Pakistan had finished the fourth day on 73 for no loss. On the final day, they were 165 for 3 at one stage but were eventually bowled out for 235, with Nathan Lyon picking up a five-wicket haul for the visitors.
“We didn’t go defensive, we played positive cricket,” Babar said after the game. “You plan according to the situation. It’s not like you go out, play big shots and go for the runs. We had a good session early in the day but unfortunately we had soft dismissals and that’s the reason we lost the game.
“We had a simple plan – to take the momentum in hand first and then think [about the target] after the tea. After lunch, we had a plan to play normal cricket. We weren’t able to decide whether to go for a win or a draw. But with all those wickets falling, we decided to go deep as much as we could but we were positive throughout. There were continuous discussions in our dressing room about chasing it down.
“But when your main batters are dismissed, you obviously start thinking differently. Still, Sajid [Khan] and I were trying to build a partnership and extend as much as we could, hoping we could draw. Yet we never held back, kept on playing shots and utilised whatever came in our area. So the mindset was positive but it didn’t go in our way.”
“Overall the series went well, especially the Karachi Test where we dominated and saved the match,” Babar said. “Unfortunately, I got out but even then we had our mind set on chasing. But mistakes are part of the game and it’s too early to think about changes [in the side]. We don’t have to forget their recent performances. Our entire team is experienced now, we have developed a good combination and I have full faith in them.”
Throughout the series, Pakistan were faced with some selection dilemmas. In the first Test, they were missing Faheem Ashraf and Hasan Ali because of injuries. The duo returned in the second Test, but for the third, Ashraf was replaced by Naseem Shah as Pakistan went with five specialist bowlers.
That left them with a long tail. In the first innings of the Lahore Test, Pakistan lost their last five wickets for 14 runs, and in the second, for 68.
When asked about Hasan Ali’s performance – he picked up two wickets in two Tests – and if legspinner Zahid Mahmood could have been picked, Babar said: “The main thing is the combination and you pick players accordingly. We have our offspinner [Sajid] who is a good batter and Nauman Ali is coming along with a good bowling show. I don’t think even their legspinner [Mitchell Swepson] got enough help. Most of the wickets were taken by offspinners. Hasan Ali is a matchwinner, he gave his best effort but sometimes things don’t go your way. It’s part of the game. There are ups and downs but I have my belief in him and it’s still there as ever before.”
Throughout the series, the pitches were a big talking point. Pakistan had been pushing to produce spin-friendly tracks but all three Tests were dominated by fast bowlers until the final day of the series.
“There is always a home advantage and you definitely have to take advantage of it,” Babar said. “Rest it’s in the curator’s hands and I think they prepared good pitches at all three venues. It had turn and break and helped both our and their bowlers. I think cricket was played well. We only lost by one session, otherwise in all three games our effort was commendable.”
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent