Johannesburg - Dale Steyn’s remarkable first spell of bowling was pivotal to Pakistan’s defeat, said skipper Misbah-ul-Haq at the end of the first Test against South Africa, in Johannesburg, on Monday.
The Proteas thrashed Pakistan by 211 runs, inside four days, as man-of-the-match Steyn finished with 11 wickets at a cost of 60 runs.
His magnificent display of swing bowling spearheaded Pakistan's dramatic collapse in the first innings to 49 all out - Pakistan’s lowest total in their Test history.
Scorecard: South Africa v Pakistan, first Test
VIDEO: South Africa v Pakistan, first Test highlights
“I have to give credit to the South African bowling line-up, especially the way Steyn bowled in that first spell,” Misbah said of Steyn’s initial three overs in which he grabbed three wickets for four runs (3-2-4-3).
“It was the turning point of game and today, with new ball again, he took the game away from us - it’s the area he bowls in and the swing he gets, that makes him so special.”
He said it was difficult for a team coming from the sub-continent to handle the relentless attack of the South African seamers although the tourists had improved in their second innings.
“Although our performance in the second innings was better, our batting as a whole let us down especially after getting South Africa out for 253 in their first innings.
“It was a chance for us to get a good first innings score and then we would still be in this game.“
Pakistan needed to stick to basics and do some serious work on their batting, Misbah said.
“We need to work out how to tackle these out-swinging deliveries and practice as much as we can in these conditions,” he said.
“It’s very important to negotiate the new ball without losing wickets. We saw in the second innings, that once the new ball was over, we could bat well and score runs so now we have an idea of what we need to do and we want to practice and try to do it right in the next game.”
There were two significant partnerships in Pakistan’s innings, which Misbah felt had lifted the team’s confidence. Debutant Nasir Jamshed and Azhar Ali put on a respectable 57 runs together for the second-wicket while Misbah shared a fifth-wicket century stand with Asad Shafiq, each cracking on to make half-centuries.
“In this situation, we had to go out and bat for as long as we could as time wasn’t an issue.
“We knew the longer we stayed out there it would lift our morale and lower the morale of the bowlers - so that was the goal.”
Misbah said all the members of the team had performed well over the last two years and once they applied themselves better, they hoped to put up a better fight in the next Test.
“It’s not something we can’t do, so everyone in the team learned a lesson from those partnerships and got a bit of courage from that,” Misbah said.
“It’s always difficult playing in South Africa and credit to them - the number one side in the world with the number one bowlers in the world and top batsmen, playing in their own conditions.
“It’s not easy and everyone knows that, but still, it’s a challenge for us and we have to take it on and we have to improve and we have to play well.”
Pakistan relied heavily on their spinners and Misbah hoped the wicket in Cape Town might have more turn and offer his bowlers some assistance.
“We bowled well but we still need to improve against such a quality line-up. We need to improve day by day and in every session and make plans against them - how to get them out and stop them scoring runs.”