Sarfraz Ahmed was once again left ruing the what-ifs as Pakistan faced an all familiar collapse to let the advantage slip on day twoof the third and final Test in Johannesburg. The visitors were looking good to overhaul South Africa’s first innings score of 262 with Sarfraz Ahmed and Babar Azam well set and their side on 169/5. However, a collapse ensued and Pakistan lost their way to be bundled out for 185 and concede a crucial lead of 77 runs.

Ahmed admitted a few bad shots brought about his side’s undoing.

“I think if you talk about our day, we had a chance to get to 262 runs but we didn’t get it,” he said after play ended on the third day. “When me and Babar were batting, we were thinking we should play positive cricket. Unfortunately, I couldn’t score more than 50. If I’d scored 50-70 more runs, the position we’d be in would be much better.

“I think we played a couple of bad shots. I think my shot was also a bad shot, and Babar’s too. If you see the last five wickets, there were three bad shots. Mine, Babar’s and Faheem [Ashraf’s]. If we hadn’t played those shots, maybe we’d be in a much better position.”

Having being reduced to 91/5, Ahmed and Babar Azam decided to take the aggressive route forging a 78-run stand for the sixth wicket in a shade over 10 overs. While Ahmed scored a 40-ball 50, Azam slammed 49 in just 55 deliveries. But, once both fell in quick succession Pakistan stumbled to lose their last five wickets for just 16 runs.

Pakistan have for long been grappling with this tendency to collapse, an issue which Ahmed conceded needed rectification as soon as possible.

“The problem of losing too many wickets quickly is one we’ve been facing for the past 10-12 innings. We had the same problem in the first Test match, where Shan [Masood] and Imam [ul-Haq] batted well, and once they got out we lost too many wickets. It was the same in Cape Town, and now the same here. It’s a problem we’re facing and we have to work on this,” he said.

Having handed South Africa a hefty lead, the Pakistani bowlers then came out all guns firing to reduce the hosts to 45/4 but their tendency to blow hot and cold once again came to the fore as they could only pick up one more wicket before stumps. When play ended on the second day, South Africa had moved to 135/5 – securing an overall lead of 212 runs.

“I think our bowling, especially the last 45 minutes, we weren’t up to the mark,” Sarfraz admitted. “We bowled really well overall but the last one hour we didn’t bowl well. At the moment, if you talk about our bowling attack, we are only bowling well in patches.

“If we bowl well consistently throughout an innings, I don’t think South Africa will score as many runs against us.”

While Sarfraz rued his dismissal after being set he said he was happy with the way he finally found his feet especially after bagging a pair in the first Test of the series.

“If you see my first two innings, my feet weren’t moving very much at all,” he said. “My batting style hasn’t changed. So I worked on my feet movement, so thankfully I’m playing well at the moment. If you want to score here you have to play positive cricket. Because a good ball is never far away.

“If you see [Aiden] Markram or Hashim [Amla], whenever they see the bad ball they put it away. If you don’t play positive cricket, you will get out at any time.”

First Published: January 13, 2019, 9:01 AM IST