A surprisingly elated Shoaib Malik credited his senior players after Pakistan completed a comfortable clean sweep of the Mobilink Cup against Zimbabwe. Pakistan, led by Malik, went on a lap of honour around Sheikhupura Stadium after their win, an unusually exuberant celebration as they were expected to win 5-0. But Malik had personal reasons for smiling, having been adjudged the Man of the Series after scoring 158 runs with two half-centuries and topping the bowling charts with 11 wickets.
Pakistan tried nine new players during the series, but Malik insisted the support they received from the senior players was a major factor behind their success. "We tried a lot of new faces in the series and it is not easy for young players to perform right from the start," Malik said. "However, I'm thankful to the senior players who helped these debutants make their entry into international cricket that much easier. It is due to that the changes worked so effectively."
Ever since their bowlers received a mauling in the first ODI in Karachi, Zimbabwe have opted to bat after winning the toss. Hamilton Masakadza, Zimbabwe's stand-in captain, carried on the trend here, but he was left ruing it from the start as Sohail Tanvir and Abdur Rauf, one of four debutants, utilised overcast conditions to good effect. Malik was surprised by Masakadza's decision and confirmed he would have bowled first in order to give his bowlers the chance to make an impression.
"With overcast conditions and a relatively unknown pitch, I would've bowled had I won the toss," he said. "Even though we had helpful conditions, credit must also go out to our young fast bowlers, of which two were making their debut, for bowling in the right areas."
Masakadza, disappointed with his team's batting, blamed Zimbabwe's lack of all-round skills for the convincing loss. "We failed to capitalise on good, match-winning positions," Masakadza said. "We could've won at least three matches on this tour but let good positions slip too easily.
"We weren't thrashed or outplayed by the opposition in any of the matches so it all comes down to taking half-chances and crossing the finish line. We need to learn how to finish things off."
Our motto is to keep fighting as a unit and with the series win, the team is confident of facing Australia
Malik, despite the win, said the team had a lot to learn and implement before the tough series against Australia. "There's a lot of difference between ODIs and Test matches," Malik said. "Just because we have performed well in ODIs does not mean we can be complacent for the [Test] series against Australia. We need to improve our fielding and running between the wickets because those two departments of the game can be vital against a strong team like Australia."
Having been unable to bowl out Zimbabwe in three of the five games, Malik pointed to his side's "lack of killer instinct" as one of the areas they needed to work on. "We were in positions to get Zimbabwe dismissed cheaply, like today, but we let our guard down and let opportunities slip. Luckily, we went on to win the matches so it did not come back to haunt us but we still need to improve on that.
"Our motto is to keep fighting as a unit and with the series win, the team is confident of facing Australia."