DUBAI // An angry Dav Whatmore struggled to hide his disgust as all the goodwill Pakistan had generated in an uplifting win in Abu Dhabi last week dissipated in the space of 36.4 overs yesterday.
Pakistan’s coach was livid with the way his batsmen, who were so impressive in combating the world’s best bowling attack last week, flounced to 99 all out in apparently benign batting conditions.
“I’d rather look at it as bad shot selection,” Whatmore said when asked if he thought South Africa’s bowlers, or his own batsmen, were the reason for Pakistan’s demise.
“There weren’t too many demons out there. We orchestrated our downfall ourselves.”
Conventional Test match cricket theory dictates that nine times out of 10, if you win the toss you immediately opt to bat. The one other time you might think about it briefly – then still choose to bat.
Oddly, given that the UAE is widely regarded as a graveyard for bowlers, having first use of the facilities is not always a fail-safe plan. The first-innings collapse is a phenomenon peculiar to matches in the Emirates.
Tony Hemming, the groundsman at Dubai Sports City, has said in the past that he generally aims to prepare a sporting wicket which is at its best for batting on Day 2.
Yet still captains get blinded by the sight of a beautiful looking first-day wicket. Graeme Smith did the same in Abu Dhabi last week, and the world’s best side wilted.
Even Misbah-ul-Haq, with the benefit of all his experience of these conditions as Pakistan captain, fell into the same trap yesterday. As they trail by 29 runs overnight, Pakistan will have to perform heroically to save themselves from here.
Whatmore categorically denied they had misread the pitch, though, saying the fault lay squarely with the batsmen.
“We knew what the ground statistics were, we expected the opposition to come back strong at us, but really I don’t think they did,” the coach said.
“I think we orchestrated most of our dismissals ourselves. It is very frustrating and I am trying to work out the reason for that.”
Graeme Smith, South Africa’s captain, will start this morning 67 not out. His innings was “warrior-like” according to Imran Tahir, who had earlier been the hero with the ball.
In truth, though, conditions were not the most testing Smith has faced in his 112-Test career. He will expect to cash in with a big score today.
“We are very confident because everyone played really well today as a bowling unit and a batting unit,” Tahir said.
“Looking forward for the next four days we are confident we can square the series.”
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