Arthur confident of Pakistan channeling Abu Dhabi hurt
The phantasmagorical fourth innings collapse that led to a heartbreaking four-run loss in Abu Dhabi left the dressing room devastated, according to Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur. Arthur was disappointed at the choice of shots under pressure, but backed his players to put it behind them ahead of the second Test.
“Our choice of shots under pressure and the decisions we made were disappointing,” he told ESPNcricinfo. “The game was wrapped up and suddenly we had the Babar Azam run out and we couldn’t get over the line. It was incredibly disappointing. But everyone’s hurting so much. On Wednesday [today] we get together again, we clear the air and we move to Dubai to play the second Test.
He was particularly upset at how winning positions had been squandered. “Chasing 170-odd, we should have got there, that’s not the issue,” he said. “But we knew the pitch was probably going to be at its most difficult then. We missed our opportunity in the first innings. We needed to nail that first innings and get a minimum of 150 ahead.
“If we got 300 in the first innings, that would be the game done and dusted. That’s where we slipped up, because the bowler’s did a very good job. We rolled them over for 153 and 249, and that gave our batsmen a target to get. We missed our opportunity twice with the batting, and that’s something we’ll dissect and digest and remedy over the next couple of days.”
What will worry Pakistan fans is what happened on the fourth day was the culmination of a malaise that is clearly more mental than technical. For the third time in 18 months, Pakistan capitulated in the final innings in pursuit of a target they would have been odds on to get comfortably. In Barbados in April 2017, set 187 to win, they were shot out for 81 in barely over a session, and fell short against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi chasing 136. With Act 2 at Abu Dhabi even more dramatic than the others, questions about whether Pakistan can kick the habit will invariably grow, with Arthur revealing he had spoken to the PCB about the prospect of getting professional psychological help for the players.
“This is the second time it’s happened in a year, that we’ve lost in a fourth innings chase,” he said. “This is something we need to overcome as a team. Hopefully the next time we’re in a position to do it, we’ll win it comfortably. I continually discuss with the PCB [the possibility of getting a sports psychologist involved]. We have had discussions around it.”
Arthur’s emotions are never far from the surface, but he said he hadn’t yet spoken to the players. “I wanted to have one or two individual chats but last night wasn’t the right time. The boys were hurting too much. Normally, I like to get it sorted out straight after the game but it wasn’t the right time yesterday [on the final day of the Test].