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The Preview by Liam Brickhill and Sahil Dutta
November 19, 2010
Match FactsNovember 20, Dubai
The Big Picture
Since Pakistan cricket was plunged into scandal during the Lord's Test three months ago, it seems not a week has gone by without some new twist to the controversy. Yet after their Younis Khan-inspired draw in the first Test at Dubai the Pakistan camp has been remarkably quiet. The clamour surrounding Zulqarnain Haider's shock departure from the side has died down - for now at least - and, against the odds, Pakistan will go into the second Test under Misbah-ul-Haq's leadership believing they have the potential to upset the South Africans and win their first Test series since 2006.
At 36, Misbah's tenure is surely not a long-term option but he showed the value of experience and a calm head in the course of his defiant 186-run stand with Younis and has at least done enough to justify his selection to the team. However, while Pakistan's batting resilience was admirable their bowling - already dented by the loss of Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir - has been further hit by Wahab Riaz's injury. Much will depend on the spinners, Abdur Rehman and Saeed Ajmal, who struggled for incisiveness in the first Test but were not helped by the batting-friendly conditions.
South Africa's spinners were also not as effective as hoped after both teams went into the match with two slow bowlers. With conditions likely to be similar in Abu Dhabi - another venue hosting a Test for the first time - it will take something special from either team to force a result in the game, and South Africa will look to their new-ball pair of Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn to give them that spark. Morkel's five-wicket haul set up South Africa's first-innings lead at Dubai, and while Steyn is not quite back to his best after his return from injury he could have given his team the crucial breakthrough had Mark Boucher held a chance off Younis's bat early on the fifth morning.
With wins in the one-day and Twenty20 series, Graeme Smith and his men have made no secret of their intention to wrap up a clean sweep with victory in the Tests too. As the No. 2 Test side in world cricket, there's every reason to back South Africa to do just that but, as always, Pakistan are impossible to predict and simply refuse to be written off.
Form guide(most recent first)
South Africa: DWDWL
Watch out for...
He may not be the most magnetic player in the side - he's probably the least - but Azhar Ali has brought an ugly toughness to Pakistan's batting. Since coming into the side earlier this year against Australia he has played an important role in two Pakistan victories - scoring a crucial second-innings half-century in the nervy runchase to beat Australia at Headingley and setting up Pakistan's first-innings with an unbeaten 92 in the Oval win over England - and survived 322 deliveries in the first Test of this series to hold off South Africa. In a line-up partial to collapse his flinty presence has become crucial.
Pinging the ball down from the skies, Morne Morkel generated enough bounce to rough up Pakistan's lower order and help them lose their last eight wickets for 72 in the first innings at Dubai. In combination with Dale Steyn he has become a potent force with the new ball in the last year, taking 42 wickets at 24.07 from 10 Tests. South Africa's spinners are not good enough to lead the attack and with Steyn still feeling his way back after injury the responsibility rests with Morkel to try and force a South Africa win.
As they look to wrap up the series, there's no reason for South Africa to tinker too much with their line-up.
South Africa (possible): 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 Hashim Amla, 5 AB de Villiers, 6 Ashwell Prince, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Johan Botha, 9 Paul Harris, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Morne Morkel
After his rash shot in the first innings at Dubai, Pakistan may well drop batsman Umar Akmal and give a Test debut to Asad Shafiq. Also expected to make his belated debut is paceman Tanvir Ahmed, in place of the injured Riaz. The other, perhaps less likely, option would be to go with a five-man bowling attack in an effort to secure 20 wickets on a flat pitch.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Taufeeq Umar, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Azhar Ali, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Adnan Akmal (wk), 8 Abdur Rehman, 9 Umar Gul, 10 Tanvir Ahmed, 11 Saeed Ajmal
Pitch and conditions
By the end of the first Test in Dubai the lifeless pitch befitted the desert setting perfectly. Conditions will be no less hostile for fast bowlers in Abu Dhabi. This will be the first Test to be played at the ground but it hosted this year's English domestic season opener, with Durham thrashing MCC by 311 runs. Scott Borthwick's raw legspin picked up eight wickets in that game which suggests there will be plenty of work for the slow bowlers.
Stats and trivia
"Hopefully there will be more life in the pitch in Abu Dhabi."
Graeme Smith speaks on behalf of bowlers and cricket lovers around the world.
We weren't playing much Test cricket, so playing the world's second-ranked team in Tests was a challenge and after drawing the first Test we now have a belief that we can win."
A bullish Misbah-ul-Haq is ready to go one better after fighting to a draw in the first Test.
Liam Brickhill and Sahil Dutta are assistant editors at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Liam Brickhill
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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