Pakistan in South Africa 2013 January 31, 2013

Batsmen in a fight for respect

At the beginning of Misbah's reign, Pakistan drew a series against South Africa. Expectations were low, and the dead wickets of the Emirates helped, but Pakistan seemed ripe for humiliation

At the beginning of Misbah's reign, Pakistan drew a series against South Africa. Expectations were low, and the dead wickets of the Emirates helped, but Pakistan seemed ripe for humiliation. It was a quiet statement of intent to symbolise the silent revolution of Misbah-ul Haq. Now Pakistan begin another Test series against South Africa, on this occasion on the dreaded wickets of Johannesburg and Cape Town, and the greatest compliment to Pakistan's progress is that the world's No. 1 team is taking Pakistan seriously.

It is hard to champion great expectations for this series. Pakistan invariably struggle in South Africa, even when they bring the best fast bowlers in the world with them. Those fast men have sometimes humbled South Africa but Pakistan's batsmen have rarely failed to find a lower gear. The ball bounces. The ball moves. It doesn't even have to do so at speed as Shaun Pollock has shown often enough. Pakistan's best batsmen nibble. They prod and poke. Thank you and good night.

Still, I cannot remember as resolute a bunch as this venturing to South African shores? We can expect true grit from Misbah and Younis Khan. Azhar Ali is cut from diligent cloth. Asad Shafiq will battle. Nasir Jamshed has quickly adapted his one-day game to encourage longevity and must be capable of the same in Tests. Mohammad Hafeez will urge his mind to the correct method although the Professor's feet are less reliable. That's Pakistan's top order right there, a grinder to the last man.

Warriors old and new are about to face what might be their toughest ever batting challenge. South Africa's bowling bullies and dominates. The pitches spit and seam. The aggression of the fielding side is multiplied by the hostility of crowds. An Asian batsman may never feel so far from home or comfort zone.

Yet such adversity is made for heroes. There is nothing to lose. No Pakistan batsman has ever dominated in South Africa except Azhar Mahmood. He is now British. The highest average belongs to Taufeeq Umar. It will stay with him as he nurtures a leg injury. Saleem Malik's achievements are too sour to celebrate. Inzamam-ul Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, and Younis--the major Pakistan batsmen of the last decade--have never amounted to much. A situation is vacant for a Pakistani lion to tame South Africa.

Equally, fast bowling is one of Pakistan's strengths. Junaid Khan and Umar Gul will make Pakistan competitive on any pitch that helps South Africa. Mohammad Irfan, a man with stilts for legs, should be frightening and unplayable, provided Dav Whatmore can coax sufficient focus and fitness. A 90 mph ball leaping at your throat from a good length isn't anybody's idea of a pleasant afternoon.

Pakistan are superior in spin bowling. Saeed Ajmal, the world's No. 1 bowler by some definitions, is a threat on any wicket. Abdur Rehman's zippy left-arm deliveries are unlikely to be slowed down by the intoxication of recreational drugs. In return, Imran Tahir and Robin Peterson are a more ordinary challenge. Given a spinner's wicket, Pakistan will dominate. But who will be daft enough to give them that?

Pakistan's bowling deserves respect but the batsmen will need to quickly earn respect if Pakistan are to salvage anything from this series. In such circumstances, the resilience of the lower order can be decisive. A decent showing in the tour match is encouraging but Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, and Vernon Philander did not feature. This African examination, no doubt, has come too early in the development of Misbah's Pakistan team, and the hosts are strong favourites. Success for Pakistan will be that South Africa are still taking them seriously at the end of the Test series. The responsibility for this rests with Pakistan's batsmen. But when Imran Farhat's name appears on the team sheet we will know that Pakistan, forget South Africa, have finally stopped taking themselves seriously.

Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on February 24, 2013, 20:35 GMT

    Pakistan,s performance will notimroveas long as they keepon retaining nonerformers inthe Team such as : Afridi , Shoaib Malik, Youniskhan ,Misbah and the Akmal Brothers . Do the selectors have any explanation for their dropping Sarfaraz from the T20sTeam and the ODIs ? He is way superior as a wicketkeeper compared to Kamran Akmal and is one of the best batsman in the Pakistan test side . He is also one of the best batsman inthe Pakistan side .

  • testli5504537 on February 21, 2013, 6:32 GMT

    finaly board realise that they shpuld have to select the afridi........he is still a match winner.........

  • testli5504537 on February 13, 2013, 21:20 GMT

    "The aggression of the fielding side is multiplied by the hostility of crowds."

    Come on we are not that bad lol

  • testli5504537 on February 10, 2013, 8:14 GMT

    Interesting to read the comments now after the first test has been lost. Some commenters were afraid the Pakistan will be bowled out under 200. Worst fears realized!

    Irfan needs to be given a chance. We will never know about his test playing ability until he is blooded.

  • testli5504537 on February 10, 2013, 2:33 GMT

    T20 cricket is proving tough for the survival of cricket as a whole.The 2 best teams Aus & Ind will find it hard to have replacements for Tendulkar,Dravid & Ponting/clarke. SA will face the same after retirement of Kallis & Smith. Pak is already struggling partly due to non availability of playing cricket at home & rest popularity of T20 cricket that quality batsmen like Miandad, Inzimam has become a rarity.In last few years we have seen Pak scoring 49,its lowest test score. Aus out for 47 & NZ 45 apart from some unbelievable low scores from Eng,WI as well. Better save test cricket.

  • testli5504537 on February 6, 2013, 16:44 GMT

    @ "just browsing",

    Yes Pakistan is down but not out yet. Their 2nd innings already showed some signs that it is possible to go against "bouncy-track bullies."

    Yes, just like one South Asian cricket team is famous for being "Flat track bully", so is your team a Bouncy track bully. (a) They always prepare excessive bouncy pitches, (b) Then they resort to bouncers to harass the batsman and take the wickets.

    What do you call this? .. sportsman like conduct!! No, sir, it's not. It's called victory by hook or by crook -- at any cost! Now that's definitely not a sportsman like conduct.

    I think South Africa has taken a leaf out of Cricket Australia's cricket pitches and turned them on their faces as well as other teams -- Bravo!

    There is nothing extra ordinary about your bowlers, these very same bowlers, just a season ago, couldn't do a thing against Pakistan in Dubai pitches, and didn't win the series!!

    The great bowlers perform under all conditions and pitches, yours don't. - Q.E.D

  • testli5504537 on February 6, 2013, 12:14 GMT

    I would not be alarmed by the batting collapse until it happens as a routine. Pakistan has the firepower to overcome the SA bowling attack. The 'surprise' promised by Misbah was real. OK, this time bring a better bowler. Personaly, I would go with Rehman and apply relentless pressure with Ajmal, Rehman and Hafeez after 12 overs from Gul and Junaid. Pakistan must use its strength and not try to let its weakness prevail.

  • testli5504537 on February 4, 2013, 14:38 GMT

    the last comment before me was at 10:53 on the second day of the test.all of a sudden, all the comments stopped. (I'm betting that this was when the majority of commentators realized that the game was already lost.)even tho SA declared their second innings at 276/3 Pakistan still had a chance to get something out of the test (forcast was rain for day 5) the pakistan first innings were to serve 1 purpose only (and that is your bowlers cannot do what ours can) Smith didn't follow on for another reason (and that was to tell the pakistan players that even if we let you bowl on the same pitch we used 20 minutes ago, you cant bowl us out. (only 3 wickets fell) there were many people who were saying that pakistan is the only country left that can challenge SA for the #1 crown. in my opinion, i dont think any country comes close. the game is already over with SA winning by 211 runs. pakistan will come up, but i regret to say, i dont see them winning a single match in SA (T20 and ODI not incl)

  • testli5504537 on February 2, 2013, 10:53 GMT

    This article suddenly seems a very long time back, now.

  • testli5504537 on February 2, 2013, 10:18 GMT

    This is double standard. ICC umpire should note it down. Rule for AB & Misbah is different ?

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