Pakistan set the hosts 329 in the second Test at Sabina Park, giving themselves a possible 130 overs to bowl West Indies out. Azam said that with Pakistan already trailing in the series, they had few options but to go for an early declaration after taking a lead of 152 in the first innings.
“The plan was always to ask them to bat for 20-25 overs on the fourth day, and it eventually worked out well for us,” he said. “Take the lead up to 330-340, and then to make them play in whatever time remains on the fourth day. We had to level the series and so had to take some bold decisions for that – which we did take – and things worked out well for us.”
Azam also credited his bowlers for setting up the win, and singled out left-arm quick Shaheen Afridi, who picked up a career-best match haul of 10 for 94, including his best figures of 6 for 51 in the first innings.
“He is really young, and the way he is grooming himself and performing for Pakistan shows he is such a good talent,” Azam said. “He is only improving day-by-day, and learning as well. He is leading the bowling too, and it was fun watching him bowl. He believes in himself, and each time he is given the ball, he bowls with the same pace and aggression. And so this is really helpful for me as captain.”
“Our bowlers were outstanding today, and I should only give them all the credit,” Azam said. “Even Nauman Ali bowled well. It was a fifth-day pitch, and the way he bowled and got some turn, as well as those three of his wickets, proved really crucial for us in the end.
“We thought bowlers might some help from the pitch on the final day. We had seen the wicket in the morning, and also observed it after lunch today. Hence, we thought it would turn, and help the spinners. There were patches there as well, so we planned to bowl Nauman, which turned out to be helpful for us.”
Azam also highlighted senior batter Fawad Alam for his contributions, with Alam getting to his fifth Test century – and his fourth since his comeback last year – rescuing Pakistan from 2 for 3 in the first innings, and ending unbeaten on 124 in a total of 302.
“Like I have always said, he is an experienced player. He has so many runs in first-class [cricket] and has such a brilliant record there,” Azam said. “And so the way he handled the pressure, built his innings and contributed for the team as per the conditions was outstanding. All our batsmen must also learn from him.”
Azam’s counterpart Brathwaite, however, was left asking for more from his batters, with West Indies folding for 150 and 219 in the match.
“We were behind the eight-ball from the start,” Brathwaite said. “Consistently is obviously what we need. Test cricket is never easy. All the guys technically can bat, it’s just the mindset. The quicker we get to that strong mentality [the better]. First 30 balls is always the toughest period and finding out ways through those periods is key for us.”
Brathwaite did draw out some positives from the series, most notable of which was the performance of fast bowler Jayden Seales, who picked up a five-for in the first Test, thus becoming the youngest from his country to that feat in Test cricket.
“He is a star in the making, you see him getting over 250 wickets,” Brathwaite said of the 19-year-old. “I know he has a big future ahead. With the experience in our bowling group guiding – Kemar, [and] Jason – he for sure is a future star.”
Brathwaite also credited the Pakistan bowlers and Alam for their show, and felt that falling behind by a big margin in the first innings ultimately made the difference.
“As a bowling unit they were very consistent,” he said. “Batting wise, their guys who got in in the first innings went big. Obviously, Fawad getting a hundred is something for me and the batters to take – when we do get that start, we make it count.
“I still think it’s a positive since we didn’t lose the series. I thought the team did a superb job in the first Test. We let ourselves down in the first innings of this match. Kudos to the bowlers again for leading the way. We made some strides in the series, but in this Test, the first innings really let us down.”