Pakistan v South Africa 2013-14 October 6, 2013

South Africa target uncertain top order


Mohammad Hafeez's omission from the Pakistan Test squad has given South Africa a clear indication of where to draw the battle lines for the two-match series. With Khurram Manzoor set to occupy one opening spot, and the other yet to be decided but likely to be filled with a less experienced batsman than Hafeez, South Africa's seamers are targeting Pakistan's fragility at the top.

"Our pace attack against their opening batters will be important to set up the series for us," South Africa's coach Russell Domingo said ahead of the first training session in Dubai. "Hafeez's form has been a bit of a concern for them for a period of time. But he is a quality bowler and a quality batsmen and we are not displeased that he is unlikely to play a part."

Despite conditions expected to suit spinners more than quicks, Domingo said the fast men will be tasked with putting Pakistan under pressure from the get-go, by exploiting what appears to be their most obvious weakness. Domingo said Test achievements were built on strong first-wicket stands and if South Africa can prevent Pakistan from establishing one, it will set them up in pushing for victory.

"If you look at South Africa's Test cricket, it has been successful because of the way the openers have gone about their business," Domingo said. "Its the most important partnership in any format. If you think of great Test sides, like Australia had Hayden and Langer, that's the kind of thing you need."

Domingo also played down talk of raging turners, saying he was ready should the groundstaff prepare something different. "We've been involved in series where we want a certain type of wicket and we don't get it, so it's difficult to pre-empt," he said. The practice pitch at the Sharjah Cricket Ground told a different story. Imran Tahir and JP Duminy spent a significant amount of time bowling and both found substantial turn.

And Pakistan certainly seem to be expecting spin. Without Hafeez to add to the bowling options, they have Zulfiqar Babar, who will be hopeful of a first Test cap, and who could be their surprise package. "We'll need to have an in depth look at him and do some analysis," Domingo said. "He has obviously got a lot of experience but we need to sit down and do our homework."

So far South Africa have only had time to reacquaint themselves with each other, after not playing as a Test outfit since March. On arrival in Sharjah, they held a bonding session of sorts at an establishment where they watched the country's national rugby team, the Springboks, lose to New Zealand's All Blacks on Saturday afternoon.

The rest of the day was devoted to enjoying some quiet and Domingo hoped it would help in acclimatising, especially to the heat. "When you get here to start with the heat is always stifling but after four or five days, you tend to get used to it."

Work, as is customary in this part of the world, began on Sunday morning when they held their first team meeting. "We had a good chat and emphasised the important elements that made this Test side so successful and how we want to try and continue to do well," Domingo said.

They will have two days of training - today and tomorrow - before a three-day warm-up game against Pakistan A. Domingo said he would have preferred another practice outing but is satisfied that the cricket some of the squad has played in the last few months will ensure they are match-ready. "One warm-up game is not ideal. But its better than nothing," he said. "Quite a lot of the guys have been playing cricket in Champions League, Hashim [Amla] was playing county cricket and some preparing with their franchises."

The last arrival from the CLT20 flew in today. Faf du Plessis was with the Chennai Super Kings and left India on Sunday morning. He traveled straight to the ground to join the practice. Thami Tsolekile, the reserve wicketkeeper, will arrive later in the week. He is on compassionate leave following the death of his mother-in-law.

South Africa will look to play 13 in their practice match to ensure everybody has a "bit of a go," and have the opportunity to size up some of the players who could form part of the opposition. Given that Pakistan are likely to pick their other opener from the cricketers who do duty in the warm-up match, with Ahmed Shehzad the leading candidate, it will also give South Africa's quicks the chance to make a first impression on whoever partners Manzoor at the top.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ata on October 10, 2013, 16:28 GMT

    Well omission of Mohammad Hafeez has not created any gap, rather it filled the gap in in Pakistan team, now Pakistan have got Ahmed Shahzad, and he is much better than Hafeez. On the other hand Pakistan will go with Abdul Rehman and I hope he too can score more than Hafeez. Even Zulfiqar Babar too can score more than Hafeez. Abdul Rehman and Zulfiqar babar, will be more dangerous for SA in bowling. So Pakistan will be on top of this series.

  • Muhammad on October 8, 2013, 17:19 GMT

    Greatest_Game: I never predicted a series win for Pakistan. I said series will be drawn. Last time when the two teams met in UAE, the result was a drawn series. At that time PCB didn't have much say in preparation of pitches. Now they have much more authority. They are going for spin friendly pitches and actually playing 3 full time spinners. I gave you enough evidence of vulnerability of "current" South African batsmen against spin bowlers on spin friendly tracks.

    In the past, Pakistan was never too much reliant on their spinners ever as their strength has always been fast bowling. They never went for 3 man spin attack. All these spinners are actually world class. Believe me they are going to give tough time to South Africa. Just imagine how South Africa struggled against Ajmal alone in Cape Town, their home ground, when conditions just slightly favored spin bowling. Now bring in two more similar spinners and much more spin friendly (alien) conditions in the equation.

  • David on October 8, 2013, 7:36 GMT

    @ mzm149 writes "Ruling Pakistan completely out at their home ground is quite naive considering they have best spin bowling attack."

    It seems rather naive to believe that Pakistan's really poor record against DA is going to suddenly improve. Pak have the rather u fortunate habit of losing tsts with SA. The record 11 wins for SA, & 3 wins for Pak, 2 of which came in SA. Pak has only ONCE beaten SA at home. ONCE!

  • zaf on October 8, 2013, 3:03 GMT

    Kingsland Selection Board did great work for PCB and pleasure to announce PAK TEAM as; 1)Nasir Jamshed 2)Ahmed Shahzad 3)Khurum Manzoor 4)Younis Khan(CAPT)(Spin bowler) 5)Umar Akmal(WKT) 6)Umar Amin(Spin Bowler) 7)Shoiab Maqsood 8)Shan Massood 9)AFRIDI(Spin Bowler) 10)Junaid(Fast) 11)Irfan(Fast)

  • Dummy4 on October 7, 2013, 23:57 GMT

    umar gul is a senior bowler and through out his career has learnt how to use the long handle down the order and has been their with akhtar asif amir and wahab riaz while these players went out the team he had always stayed in and he gives performance maybe not the best of them but still as a senior fast bowler he deserves his spot in the team more then wahab riaz does. saeed ajmal and junaid khan without argument deserve the spot. however even though irfan had a poor performance in the test taking 3 wickets in two tests he is a speed star who is tall and can often trouble the batsman. thats why i choose these 11 please cricinfo go through my three comments i am a new fan of cricket since only 2011 so i hope what i said made sense if not please get back to me

  • Dummy4 on October 7, 2013, 23:52 GMT

    through out. misbah and younis are senior and in good form and are good for pakistan at this point. azhar ali plays slow but what else do u need in test matches but maybe the more important problem is his weakness has been figured out by other teams but as for haris sohail he deserves a fair chance in the team he has shown on the national level that he is a really good batsman but he has not been given enough chances even though he flew with the team for many series and pakistan has had batting failures. wicket keepers in pakistan is a problem they keep wickets but don't score runs i think the selectors and the heads of pcb should pay attention towards this for sure. then we have abdur rehman who has had his chances and performed really well but saeed ajmal has been the main name for in the spin department where as babar deserves a chance but how ever taking in notice abdur rehman can bat as well especially while playing 5 bowlers he could come in handy.

  • Dummy4 on October 7, 2013, 23:42 GMT

    1)khurram manzoor or asad shafiq 2)taufeeq umar 3)younis 4)misbah 5)azhar ali or haris sohail wicket keeper any which is best because we don't have to many options abdur rehman or babar umar gull saeed ajmal junaid khan mohammad irfan this is the team which should be playing the test match against south africa khurram is a consistent performer in pakistans first class circuit where as asad shafiq should be moved up because he is a good player but not performing lower down in the order so either one should open in the absence of hafeez. taufeeq umar look at his record against teams like south africa and by no doubt he is a very stable player and has a lot of temperament he is by no doubt the best opener pakistan has for test matches right now for some reason during the tour of south africa nasir jamshed was preferred to him because of his good performance in the odis against india but he failed and since then tawfeeq name has disappeared from the pakistani team even tho he had given goo

  • Muhammad on October 7, 2013, 18:15 GMT

    Jda123 - Spot on mate. But our selectors have some hidden agendas i.e. giving preference to players of certain city over another one. The team you have chosen is perfect. If they go with this team Pakistan can never lose in UAE.

  • John on October 7, 2013, 16:49 GMT

    Cant understand why Jamshed or Umar Akmal are not in the team... Jamshed can only play on these tracks so he should have played and Akmal is needed.

    Poor choice by Pakistan, should have gone with a team like this -

    1 - Jamshed 2 - Azhar Ali 3 - Younis Khan 4 - Umar Akmal 5 - Misbah 6 - Sohail 7 - WK (Adnan Akmal) 8 - Ajmal 9 - Rehman 10 - Babar 11- Junaid

  • Dummy4 on October 7, 2013, 11:54 GMT

    It will not be easy for any team. Spin may come to play only if pcb decides to make super turners not flat. SA have some batting to cope with it too. In UAE during England series, seamers did get good wickets, especially England pacers.

    Pakistan's batting is weak. Khurram is just back from a long delay. ok performance vs ZIM. they should have picked toufeeq if they were off to drop hafeez. The dropping form of Azhar, asad is a concern too. and offcourse a weak batsman as a keeper a major problem.

    Now the talks of playing 3 spinners make it worse and a long tail in batting line up.

    I was and still of the view that hafez should have been dropped but if they are going to play 3 spinners then we needed an allrounder down the order. may be Fawad alam a good option. or any or hafeez down the order.