Testing bench strength more important than winning series: Malik

Men in Green are currently 2-0 down in five-match ODI series against Australia

Testing bench strength more important than winning series: Malik PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan stand-in captain Shoaib Malik has stressed on the importance of testing team’s bench strength, despite going 2-0 down in the five-match ODI series against Australia in United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Aussie skipper Aaron Finch struck back-to-back centuries to power Australia to another comprehensive eight-wicket victory over a lacklustre Pakistan in the second one-day international in Sharjah on Sunday.

Finch smacked unbeaten 143-ball 153 for his 13th ODI hundred — also his highest score in ODIs — to anchor Australia's comfortable chase of a 285-run target in 47.5 overs.

While speaking in a post-match interview, Malik said that his side’s focus is not primarily on winning the series.

"Our goal is to give everyone an opportunity,” said Malik. “It’s not about winning the series because we are focused on testing our bench strength."

The veteran Pakistan all-rounder also rued the lack of early wickets, during the second ODI, but was glad to see his team fight till the last ball of the match.  

"To be honest, I think early strikes by our bowlers is what we are lacking," he said. "Overall, there are positives as we fought until the last ball.”

Pakistan posted 280-7 thanks largely to Mohammad Rizwan's maiden century.

Rizwan, only playing because regular wicketkeeper and skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed has been rested for the series, added 52 for the third wicket with middle-order batsman Haris Sohail (34) and an invaluable 127 for the fifth wicket with skipper Malik.

Rizwan improved on his previous best of 75 not out and completed his hundred with a single off 114 balls before falling to Nathan Coulter-Nile's boundary catch.

While speaking about Rizwan’s innings, the 37-year-old was glad with the wicketkeeper-batsman progress ahead of all important International Cricket Council (ICC) 2019 World Cup in England and Wales.

"It’s a great sign that someone else [Rizwan] is knocking on the door for a World Cup selection," he said.

Meanwhile winning team captain Finch admitted that the start was tough while chasing down Pakistan’s target.  

"On a wicket like that, you can't afford to take it too deep with new batters," said Finch. "When you come in, it's tough to quickly at first. I just wanted to get through Imad [Wasim]. It's hard to take a risk off him. I just hung in there as long as I could.”

Finch also praised his fellow opener Usman Khawaja.

“Usman has been in good form, and he's getting big runs at an important time. Things are going quite well at the moment, but there are always things to improve," he said.

The third match of the series is scheduled to take place in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, March 27.