Pakistan v South Africa, 1st Test, Abu Dhabi October 13, 2013

Spin and heat lessen mismatch

38

Match facts

October 14-18
Start time 10.00 am local time (6.00am GMT)

Big picture

South Africa have shown their dominance at home, blanking opponents in both series last season, and in England and Australia, where they have won on their previous two visits. Their focus will now turn to underlining their superiority on the spin-friendly tracks in the heat of Asia. They get fewer matches in Asia - Vernon Philander, an integral member of the side, is yet to play a Test there - and they haven't quite been as commanding on visits there: South Africa drew against India in 2008 and 2010, and shared the series against Pakistan in the UAE three years ago. Though they were not outclassed in any of those contests, the series win has proved elusive in recent years.

While South Africa are a settled unit, three of their regulars are returning after lengthy breaks: Graeme Smith was out with a foot problem, Jacques Kallis opted to take a break after the IPL and JP Duminy, while he has made limited-overs appearances recently, last played a Test nearly a year ago after being sidelined with an Achilles injury.

Pakistan, in the meantime, have had a humbling year. They were out of their depth in South Africa and only managed a draw in the series in Zimbabwe last month. They are far more in their element in the UAE, where the pitches give their spinners more to work with. The big question mark for Pakistan remains their batting, and whether it has the backbone to keep out a potent South Africa attack. Misbah-ul-Haq has become a master of the firefight after his top-order batsmen keel over, but he'll need more support if Pakistan are to pose a challenge to the No. 1 side in the world.

Form guide

Pakistan LWLLL (last five matches, most recent first)
South Africa WWWWW

In the spotlight

Pakistan's top order has been a huge problem: in ten Test innings this year, the top three wickets have only had two half-century stands, and there have been 15 partnerships of ten or less. Pakistan have discarded Mohammad Hafeez, and have a couple of uncapped players vying for an opener's spot. The 'established' opener is Khurram Manzoor, only nine-Tests-old himself, and having only returned to the side after a three-year absence in the recent Zimbabwe series.

For over a decade Graeme Smith has been an effective, if not elegant, run-getter for South Africa at the top of the order, shielding his middle-order batsmen from the new ball. He hasn't played much cricket in the lead-up to this series, however, having been out of competitive cricket for over 21 weeks with a foot injury. He didn't get much time in the middle in the practice game either, but he is confident he is ready for the rigours of Test cricket.

Team news

There was some concern over Smith's ankle but he is expected to play and has trained a day ahead of the match. South Africa are likely to go in with one frontline spinner in Robin Peterson, and Dean Elgar is set to make way for Duminy.

South Africa: 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 JP Duminy, 7 Faf du Plessis, 8 Robin Peterson, 9 Vernon Philander, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Morne Morkel

Besides the top-order conundrum, Pakistan have to pick the support quick bowler for Junaid Khan - one of Mohammad Irfan or Rahat Ali. The rest of the side is fairly settled.

Pakistan: 1 Shan Masood, 2 Khurram Manzoor, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Adnan Akmal (wk), 8 Abdur Rehman, 9 Saeed Ajmal, 10 Junaid Khan, 11 Mohammad Irfan

Pitch and conditions

Smith expected the pitch to be similar to the one South Africa played on in 2010, when these teams were involved in a high-scoring draw. It is warm in Abu Dhabi, with temperatures likely to be in excess of 30 C over the course of the match. The South African players have been using ice vests to try and get some relief from the heat.

Stats and trivia

  • South Africa lead the head-to-head record in Tests against Pakistan 11-3
  • Pakistan (23) and South Africa (24) have played the fewest Tests among the top eight countries in the last three years

Quotes

"There are a great bunch of boys and I had a good time with them in Zimbabwe. Even though we lost a Test match, overall the performance and the conduct was wonderful. It's good for me to be around them and I know a lot of them - like when Misbah made his debut, I was the captain."
Moin Khan, the Pakistan team manager

"We haven't dwelled on any past experiences. But every time you win away from home you gain an inner strength. That confidence has grown because we know we've been able to compete in all conditions away from home.
Graeme Smith on South Africa's unbeaten record away from home, which has stretched to seven years

Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ahsan-cric-freak on October 13, 2013, 18:35 GMT

    Pakistan has lot to play for in this series. I won't rate them as favorites but they have some bases covered this time around. They just need to send down right players for the match.. Three spinners and one pacer would do the job. Abdur Rehman bowls fine with the new ball and bowls tightly. I think Shan should be in instead of Shehzad because Khurram is there as an aggressor while Shan being a lefty is a defensive-style batsman. My selection would be: Shan, Khurram, Azhar, Younis, Misbah, Asad, Akmal, Abdur, Saeed, Junaid, Babar.

  • on October 13, 2013, 17:39 GMT

    Let Ajmal unleash whatever weapons he possesed in his armoury whether its doosra ,theesra or chuthva . Ajmal should deliver it for pak and should wallop this sa batting in any how without any excuse whether pitch is placid or turner , it does not befit to the caliber of ajmal to depend on pitchs for his effectivness. Go and make history .

  • wrenx on October 13, 2013, 16:06 GMT

    Philander should do well, he's a lot like Mohammed Asif and he'll bowl well in tougher conditions. Pakistan will have a heavy reliance on the bowlers once more, needing them to hustle through Amla and de Villiers who will no doubt accumulate a lot of runs if left to get in. It's a shame this is only a 2-test series - Younis usually gets one big score per series, and 3 tests would have been better to try and make it more competitive. I think 2-0 to South Africa here, 1-1 if Pakistan have luck on their side.

  • on October 14, 2013, 14:42 GMT

    Solid_Snake, agreed with most of your points, but the problem is that we would not know unless we try. We haven't given the deserving players chances to groom and grow. Our teams our hardly selected from performances in list A, QEA, and presidents cup competitions. So that is why you don't see players as replacements.

  • Romanticstud on October 14, 2013, 11:48 GMT

    Pakistan have the problem of their BATTING ... South Africa have the problem of SPIN ... whoever deals with their problem the beat will win ...

  • Solid_Snake on October 14, 2013, 6:05 GMT

    @Mohim zaman:Are you comparing Misbah with Sachin? Sachin has achieved everything he could in Cricketing world.It's a perfect time for him to retire.Where is Misbah standing?Also look at our Pakistan team & then lookat the players of Indian team.They have got a long list of players who can take place of Sachin.Do we have any player in Pak team who could take place of Misbah?Not a single player here..

  • duncanmoo on October 14, 2013, 5:35 GMT

    I would not be surprised if SA start off looking a bit rusty, if Pak can take advantage of this they might be able to take control of this first test. I am just excited that our season is FINALLY starting, it has been a drought for SA supporters.

  • Ibrarhunzai on October 14, 2013, 5:35 GMT

    If Misbah retires, Pak will start having embarassing losses rather than fighting losses.

  • Sajjadgillani.Farooqabad.Qatar on October 14, 2013, 4:53 GMT

    For Pakistan, Three spinner is must in these kind of pitches to win the test. This series is very important for Pakistan and instead of giving practice chance to players, they should concentrate on win the match.

  • on October 14, 2013, 3:20 GMT

    i think if they add babar it will benefit Pakistan a lot.

  • Ahsan-cric-freak on October 13, 2013, 18:35 GMT

    Pakistan has lot to play for in this series. I won't rate them as favorites but they have some bases covered this time around. They just need to send down right players for the match.. Three spinners and one pacer would do the job. Abdur Rehman bowls fine with the new ball and bowls tightly. I think Shan should be in instead of Shehzad because Khurram is there as an aggressor while Shan being a lefty is a defensive-style batsman. My selection would be: Shan, Khurram, Azhar, Younis, Misbah, Asad, Akmal, Abdur, Saeed, Junaid, Babar.

  • on October 13, 2013, 17:39 GMT

    Let Ajmal unleash whatever weapons he possesed in his armoury whether its doosra ,theesra or chuthva . Ajmal should deliver it for pak and should wallop this sa batting in any how without any excuse whether pitch is placid or turner , it does not befit to the caliber of ajmal to depend on pitchs for his effectivness. Go and make history .

  • wrenx on October 13, 2013, 16:06 GMT

    Philander should do well, he's a lot like Mohammed Asif and he'll bowl well in tougher conditions. Pakistan will have a heavy reliance on the bowlers once more, needing them to hustle through Amla and de Villiers who will no doubt accumulate a lot of runs if left to get in. It's a shame this is only a 2-test series - Younis usually gets one big score per series, and 3 tests would have been better to try and make it more competitive. I think 2-0 to South Africa here, 1-1 if Pakistan have luck on their side.

  • on October 14, 2013, 14:42 GMT

    Solid_Snake, agreed with most of your points, but the problem is that we would not know unless we try. We haven't given the deserving players chances to groom and grow. Our teams our hardly selected from performances in list A, QEA, and presidents cup competitions. So that is why you don't see players as replacements.

  • Romanticstud on October 14, 2013, 11:48 GMT

    Pakistan have the problem of their BATTING ... South Africa have the problem of SPIN ... whoever deals with their problem the beat will win ...

  • Solid_Snake on October 14, 2013, 6:05 GMT

    @Mohim zaman:Are you comparing Misbah with Sachin? Sachin has achieved everything he could in Cricketing world.It's a perfect time for him to retire.Where is Misbah standing?Also look at our Pakistan team & then lookat the players of Indian team.They have got a long list of players who can take place of Sachin.Do we have any player in Pak team who could take place of Misbah?Not a single player here..

  • duncanmoo on October 14, 2013, 5:35 GMT

    I would not be surprised if SA start off looking a bit rusty, if Pak can take advantage of this they might be able to take control of this first test. I am just excited that our season is FINALLY starting, it has been a drought for SA supporters.

  • Ibrarhunzai on October 14, 2013, 5:35 GMT

    If Misbah retires, Pak will start having embarassing losses rather than fighting losses.

  • Sajjadgillani.Farooqabad.Qatar on October 14, 2013, 4:53 GMT

    For Pakistan, Three spinner is must in these kind of pitches to win the test. This series is very important for Pakistan and instead of giving practice chance to players, they should concentrate on win the match.

  • on October 14, 2013, 3:20 GMT

    i think if they add babar it will benefit Pakistan a lot.

  • on October 14, 2013, 3:14 GMT

    lets hope that Misbah and co. make history. Best of luck team Pakistan!!!

  • on October 13, 2013, 23:16 GMT

    Good luck team Pakistan

  • Izzmail55 on October 13, 2013, 23:14 GMT

    Jb633 I totally agree with you but Zulfiqar Babar might not be MOM it might be Saeed Ajmal

  • on October 13, 2013, 21:56 GMT

    Simple equation for SA in this series If Pakistan's Spin Bowling Average > 30, Result SA Win / Draw If Pakistan's Spin Bowling Average< 20, Result Pak Win And enough of this Babar Threat, he is just ordinary, I have seen him bowl, the biggest threat to SA is indeed Ajmal

  • on October 13, 2013, 21:19 GMT

    Can pak selecter learn from indian selecters!!!!!look Great Sachin is about 40 and he is compel to retire!!!! what abt Misbah(may b gr8!!!!!???????)WHEN he is going to retire ? why he is blocking Talent players like Hsohail,U akmal, F.alam ? Why they depriving those honest kind heartd pak crickter fan ?Is misbah planning to play for 2015 WC.i think he is.............,,we pak fan realy unfrtuanate and gradually loosing intrst to watch pak match

  • jb633 on October 13, 2013, 21:07 GMT

    I have been anticipating this clash for a year. IMO this is where a good team can become great or simply remain good. It is where a fledgling Pakistan side can yet again earn the respect of the cricketing world and prove to everyone that if the conditions are right they can beat anyone. I really hope Pakistan can win this one, simply because of how much I admire Misbah as a cricketer and a leader. If Misbah was anything other than Pakistani he would be considered a universal legend. The flak he gets from his own fans infuriates me and I really hope he scores piles of runs and leads his side to a famous victory. If the pitches are prepared as they should be I am going to go 1-0 Pakistan with Babar picking up the MOM award after showing the world how good he is. South Africa are the best team in the world however and to beat them Pak cannot afford the collapses they have been showing in ZIM. Good luck to both sides I hope it's going to be a cracker.

  • on October 13, 2013, 20:50 GMT

    Umar amin should be in the team in place of asad. he has got too many chances. now enough. Pakistan should go with three spinners younis n amin will will be 2nd fast bowler. my team 1. shan 2. khurram 3. Azhar younis Misbah amin adnan rehman babar ajmal junaid

  • on October 13, 2013, 20:31 GMT

    Ajmal needs to prove his greatness in this short series against the best team in the world in their prime!

  • on October 13, 2013, 20:21 GMT

    Adnan Akmal played good during the practice match so my 11 is Shan Masood, Adnan Akmal, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq, Umar Amin, Zulfiqar Babar/Asad Shafiq, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, M. Irfan, Junaid Khan

  • SyedAreYouDumb on October 13, 2013, 20:14 GMT

    Hafeez should have been picked not for a batsman but as a bowler. Would have been good to see him bowl along with the other 3 spinners.

  • on October 13, 2013, 19:58 GMT

    My team

    Ahmed Shahzad Shan Masood Azhar Ali Yunus Khan Umar Amin Misbah Adnan Akmal Zulfiqar Babar Abdur Rehman Saeed Ajmal M.Irfan or Junaid Khan

    One Fast bowler because pitch is dry and spinner will more effective on it. Ahmed Shahzad should be in Khuram Manzoor is not performing . Ahmed Shahzad and Shan Masood both are giving constant performance .So they Should be in .Asad Shafiq out and Umar Amin because he will also use as a medium pace bowler .And Junaid khan has more chances than M.Irfan because he is more fit than Irfan.And Irfan is not so fit than he will not survive .

  • on October 13, 2013, 19:13 GMT

    @Shahzadhussan, agreed completely that injustice has been done to Fawad Alam, Haris Sohail, and Umar Akmal. However, the second part of your statement is incorrect, Faisal Iqbal was yes considered due to his backing like always but was never selected for the final team, secondly Shan Masood is a good player, and he proved that in the practice match, we need a solid lefty, and he is that person, if either Ahmed Shahzad or Khuram Manzoor fail. Keep your hopes high brother, soon the players you listed will feature in the coming series, if these guys don't put there act together.

  • on October 13, 2013, 19:00 GMT

    Pakistan should go with Shahzad and Shan, why Khurram he must be dropped bcs he got two chances against UAE but he fail to runs on top order and middle order, they played against South Africans 4 days ago...

  • on October 13, 2013, 18:57 GMT

    Hope it turns and turns square on day 1, afterall places for the test championship are at stake! Come on Pak!!

  • Shahzadhussan on October 13, 2013, 18:19 GMT

    2-0 win for SA is predicted, its not because of Pakistani bowlers, not batsmen but because of injustice with deserving players like Fawad Alam, Umar Akmal, Haris Sohail and selecting likes of Shan Masood and Faisal Iqbal only based on nepotism

  • Ahmedpakistan6 on October 13, 2013, 17:52 GMT

    Pakistan should go with Shehzad as he is more experienced than Shan and can bowl some leg spinners as well. If Pakistan wins the toss they should bat first so that South Africa will have to bat last on a day 5-4 batting wicket against some quality spinners. If Pakistan's batting clicks they should win this match.

  • Shazy777 on October 13, 2013, 17:34 GMT

    My playing X1 of S.A 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 JP Duminy, 7 Faf du Plessis, 8 Robin Peterson, 9 Vernon Philander, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Imran Tahir...

  • golgo_85 on October 13, 2013, 16:50 GMT

    Without a 3rd seamer, be it even a bowling allrounder, Pakistan will not have significant success in Test format. The fact that the possible 5th bowler here is more likely to be another spinner shows the defensive spin heavy mentality. There is no way on earth would they have left either Junaid or Irfan out if both Asif and Aamer were available. Then we would've definitely seen a three pronged Pak seam attack. Lets hope they don't make a hilarious decision by pairing Junaid with Rahat (instead of Irfan). And either Azhar Ali or Asad Shafiq needs to sit out at least 2 series in a row to get it together. And why would a team like Pakistan be so unwilling to give someone like Umar Akmal a fair chance? Haris Sohail, Hammad Azam - these players would've had an established career by now under Younis or Afridi.

  • Farrukh.91. on October 13, 2013, 16:25 GMT

    Pakistan should go with 3 spinners, the job of a part time seamer can be taken from Younis Khan or Umar Amin.

  • thE_baCk_beNcHer on October 13, 2013, 16:23 GMT

    let me tell you something folks.. Its gonna be high scoring draw :) with Amla, Kallis and AB getting 100's or even double.. These pitches are too flat to play test cricket. a team who lose to Zimbabwe. How can you expect them to when form SA. ?? Huh..Knowing all these facts I've a tiny little hope that may Pakistan win a game. [A Pakistani Daydreamer !! ]

  • on October 13, 2013, 16:05 GMT

    i think they will go with ahmed shehzad not shan . and may also pick babar instead of rehman if they go with 2 fast bowlers. ahmed has impressive 1st class record than his odis and list A. Can bowl as well.

    Pitches do support fast bowlers early on so it will be a test for paksitan's top order. It will not be easy for SA but also not for pakistan as it was against England. You need some runs no matter you play 3 spinners or 5.

    Good series coming up.

  • avmd on October 13, 2013, 15:51 GMT

    Lets play the way Indians used to play 20-25 years ago, open with Junaid Khan, give few overs to Younis Khan with new ball then all spin for rest of the test with Saeed, Rehman and Babar. Irfan is not fit to last five days in heat and unresponsive wicket and Rahat will not any wicket at UAE's wicket. Pakistan's mind set should be a bit positive, should go for Shehzad and not Shaan. Shehzad, although very young, has been around for some time, a more confident and technically better batsman and the only world class fielder in Pak team.

  • on October 13, 2013, 15:50 GMT

    I think if pakistanii batsmen's shot selection is good along with Patience to stay at the wicket then they have the abilities to put fighting total for their bowlers to ball. Pakistan should Neither be over confident nor scare of SA. They can put up good fight with determination, potential and planning.

  • mak112 on October 13, 2013, 15:26 GMT

    Best Wishes to both the teams. Even though I am a Proud Pakistani but I wanna see a fantastic series of Real Test Cricket. I hope Pakistan plays much better and attacking Cricket rather than just disappointing one which they had in the last meetings in South Africa or even in Zimbabwe. Good Luck to Jack Kallis and Graeme Smith and also to the champion Misbah ul Haq.

  • Desihungama on October 13, 2013, 15:21 GMT

    Shaan Masood? We thought Ahmed Shehzad was the other opener? Well, Pak needs to concentrate on their lower order batting primarily bowlers to learn to bat a bit. Pak has the weakest lower order than any other team with last five clueless in batting. Few odd runs from a lower order can make or break a match. Many times we had opposition on the ropes but seen often lower order bailing them out.

  • on October 13, 2013, 15:21 GMT

    Ahmed Shehzad better choice then Shan Masood and Zulfiqar Babar is way better then Rehman

    and South Africa will go with 1 extra bowler maybe Imran Tahir in place du plessis

  • ihaq1 on October 13, 2013, 14:50 GMT

    south africa look more balanced with four bowlers and two alrounders of teh kallis and duminy class...pakistan with four bowlers might flounder if teh south african batting gets going although it might look like irfan and saeed ajmal can run thru the south africans easily...the in form zulfikar baber might be preferrred as teh fifth bowler as adnan can be teh sixth batsmen...if pakistan play four bowlers they might need someone to bowl around 15-20 bowlers

  • on October 13, 2013, 14:42 GMT

    I dont think there is anything wrong with Pakistani line-up if you talk about the longer run. Its just the matter of being able to wait without becoming annoyed or anxious. Only thing I would change is Adnan Akmal's batting, He needs to improve in batting deportment. Good luck to both Team, hoping for a good series.

  • on October 13, 2013, 14:42 GMT

    I dont think there is anything wrong with Pakistani line-up if you talk about the longer run. Its just the matter of being able to wait without becoming annoyed or anxious. Only thing I would change is Adnan Akmal's batting, He needs to improve in batting deportment. Good luck to both Team, hoping for a good series.

  • ihaq1 on October 13, 2013, 14:50 GMT

    south africa look more balanced with four bowlers and two alrounders of teh kallis and duminy class...pakistan with four bowlers might flounder if teh south african batting gets going although it might look like irfan and saeed ajmal can run thru the south africans easily...the in form zulfikar baber might be preferrred as teh fifth bowler as adnan can be teh sixth batsmen...if pakistan play four bowlers they might need someone to bowl around 15-20 bowlers

  • on October 13, 2013, 15:21 GMT

    Ahmed Shehzad better choice then Shan Masood and Zulfiqar Babar is way better then Rehman

    and South Africa will go with 1 extra bowler maybe Imran Tahir in place du plessis

  • Desihungama on October 13, 2013, 15:21 GMT

    Shaan Masood? We thought Ahmed Shehzad was the other opener? Well, Pak needs to concentrate on their lower order batting primarily bowlers to learn to bat a bit. Pak has the weakest lower order than any other team with last five clueless in batting. Few odd runs from a lower order can make or break a match. Many times we had opposition on the ropes but seen often lower order bailing them out.

  • mak112 on October 13, 2013, 15:26 GMT

    Best Wishes to both the teams. Even though I am a Proud Pakistani but I wanna see a fantastic series of Real Test Cricket. I hope Pakistan plays much better and attacking Cricket rather than just disappointing one which they had in the last meetings in South Africa or even in Zimbabwe. Good Luck to Jack Kallis and Graeme Smith and also to the champion Misbah ul Haq.

  • on October 13, 2013, 15:50 GMT

    I think if pakistanii batsmen's shot selection is good along with Patience to stay at the wicket then they have the abilities to put fighting total for their bowlers to ball. Pakistan should Neither be over confident nor scare of SA. They can put up good fight with determination, potential and planning.

  • avmd on October 13, 2013, 15:51 GMT

    Lets play the way Indians used to play 20-25 years ago, open with Junaid Khan, give few overs to Younis Khan with new ball then all spin for rest of the test with Saeed, Rehman and Babar. Irfan is not fit to last five days in heat and unresponsive wicket and Rahat will not any wicket at UAE's wicket. Pakistan's mind set should be a bit positive, should go for Shehzad and not Shaan. Shehzad, although very young, has been around for some time, a more confident and technically better batsman and the only world class fielder in Pak team.

  • on October 13, 2013, 16:05 GMT

    i think they will go with ahmed shehzad not shan . and may also pick babar instead of rehman if they go with 2 fast bowlers. ahmed has impressive 1st class record than his odis and list A. Can bowl as well.

    Pitches do support fast bowlers early on so it will be a test for paksitan's top order. It will not be easy for SA but also not for pakistan as it was against England. You need some runs no matter you play 3 spinners or 5.

    Good series coming up.

  • thE_baCk_beNcHer on October 13, 2013, 16:23 GMT

    let me tell you something folks.. Its gonna be high scoring draw :) with Amla, Kallis and AB getting 100's or even double.. These pitches are too flat to play test cricket. a team who lose to Zimbabwe. How can you expect them to when form SA. ?? Huh..Knowing all these facts I've a tiny little hope that may Pakistan win a game. [A Pakistani Daydreamer !! ]

  • Farrukh.91. on October 13, 2013, 16:25 GMT

    Pakistan should go with 3 spinners, the job of a part time seamer can be taken from Younis Khan or Umar Amin.