Pakistan v South Africa, 1st Test, Abu Dhabi, 1st day October 14, 2013

Pakistan ruing lack of third seamer

Mohammad Irfan's temporary exit from the field illuminated the issue of not having a third seaming option, with captain Misbah-ul-Haq having Saeed Ajmal operate at one end in order to rotate his depleted attack
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When Mohammad Irfan left the field two balls into his fourth spell, Pakistan were already playing with limited bowling options. With only a pair of specialist seamers and spinners each, without him, Pakistan were down to three bowlers, and when he walked off, it seemed that could cause some problems.

Hashim Amla and JP Duminy were playing fluently, and with barely any turn on a deck that was flattening out, Pakistan seemed to be in for the long haul. They had already shown their reluctance to use Younis Khan's medium-pace when Zulfiqur Babar was brought on as first-change in the 10th over. The left-arm spinner's first spell was placid, as he tossed it up generously and offered some relief from one end.

Despite that, they managed to put the world's top-ranked team in a precarious position using only four bowlers, thanks largely to the efforts of Junaid Khan upfront, and the spinners later on. Junaid opened with a four-over spell and obtained significant movement to make Graeme Smith's stay at the crease uncomfortable. After a four-over break, he returned for another, beating Hashim Amla's bat on occasion, and getting the crucial wicket of Jacques Kallis with what was probably his delivery of the day - one which bent back in and took the inside edge.

But with the older ball, the South Africans found him easier to play, and that may have been where Pakistan missed a third seam-bowling option. Their lack of a pace-bowling all-rounder seems to offset the balance of their team and they will have to rely heavily on the spinners to make up for that.

The early signs suggest they can. Saeed Ajmal's stamina meant he could easily operate from one end all day once he was brought on, and it seemed that would be the case when he came on before lunch. He bowled non-stop from the 22nd over till tea, making it 17 overs on the trot.

Although he was fairly unthreatening in that time, the South Africans treated him with the respect his reputation has earned, and having him as a constant allowed Misbah-ul-Haq to rotate the rest of the bowlers from the other end. That may be the way Ajmal is used in the early exchanges between these two sides, as a slow poison of sorts to create frustration and allow things to happen at the other end before striking himself.

An example of that came when the man stationed in an unconventional position behind square leg for JP Duminy's sweep shot gave Babar his first Test wicket. And then things started to turn for the spinners, with Babar and Ajmal taking advantage. With South Africa at 222 for 8, they could have finished them off for under 250, but it was perhaps the lack of an additional bowler which made it difficult for them to achieve that.

Misbah will probably have to call on Younis at some stage, but will be relieved that Irfan was able to get back on to take the second new ball. The tall man later confirmed it was nothing more than a case of cramp, exacerbated by slight dehydration, and that he felt better after increasing his water intake. He confirmed he would be able to play a part in the rest of the match but predicted he may not be the danger man.

"At the end of the day, the spinners dominated," Irfan said. "Although it is not turning that much, our spinners are still getting something out of it, and will hopefully have more in the second innings."

Pakistan would have thought they were in a similar position of advantage after they bowled South Africa out for 253 in their first innings at the Wanderers in February. That was the first, and only time, in the home summer that South Africa were challenged, and that too in conditions tailor-made for their pace attack. All Pakistan could muster in response was 49 all out, thanks to a Dale Steyn special of 6 for 8 in 8.1 overs.

Nothing as emphatic should be expected tomorrow, given the conditions, but Duminy hinted the seamers are already smarting on behalf of their batsmen and will want to make up for a day which they "definitely" felt they ended "behind" on. "Having the bowling line-up that we do, you've got to back us to do a great job," Duminy said.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • SamRoy on October 14, 2013, 18:24 GMT

    Pakistan don't have an all-rounder and their batting is pretty weak. So they will not take the risk of playing 5 bowlers (as they need 6 batsman as their wicket-keeper also isn't very good at batting). In these dry pitches and high heat you have to play two specialist spinners because they are your main weapons. So if you have 4 bowling options and out of it are two are spinners, how can you play third seaming option?

  • zidi.raajput on October 15, 2013, 11:26 GMT

    Bowling is not a real problem for Pakistan .Pakistan cant afford to play another seamer to replace a Batsman .

  • CricketMaan on October 15, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    You must be super happy that you hav at least 2 seamsers and a two class spinners, we here in India have NO seamers and so-so spinners!! A bold step by PAK in many many years to blood youngsters to open. Persist with them and dont play ping pong with thier careers. Send them to county cricket for a month and make them play atleast 2-3 county games, then ask about thier performance!

  • Sirio on October 15, 2013, 4:57 GMT

    What will actually happen is that SA will somehow make another 100 - 125 runs and then Pakistan will out by less than 150 making it a follow-on and then they somehow play sensibly in their second inning to post a total of about 200 to SA who will eventually play 4th innings. The innings that SA wanted to avoid. Well done Pakistan.

  • Sirio on October 15, 2013, 4:53 GMT

    SA are smart to open the proceedings in the First test. Hence they will avoid 4th innings which Pakistan will play. The only thing Pakistan can do is to get SA out pretty quick today and hopefully play for next 2days to make 500 plus runs, or at least the lead of 250 - 300. That will make SA innings look like 4th innings. But wait. What am I saying? Pakistan playing 2 days and making 500 Plus runs!! am I kidding? I think I am. I am hallucinating.

  • alipaki on October 15, 2013, 1:43 GMT

    I can' under sand why people are against Misbah I think a part from series against zimbabwe and south africa Pakistan has done great under his leadership atleast in Tests and moreover I think Asad shafiq deserve more chances he played well against africa in africa infact scored a ton over there why people are asking to drop him

  • TheRealRockNRolla on October 15, 2013, 1:38 GMT

    *clap clap clap* great article. yes we are missing another fast bowler - Wahab should have been in if Gul was unfit but the battling line up is as solid as they come barring Umar Akmal Still all is well, Umar Akmal will get his chance later on...I am hoping Misbah and selector's faith in Azhar Ali pays off as he is the only odd man out for me. the rest of the batting line up for once looks solid. those ruing shehzad etc. probably did not watch the domestic season unfold there are other more deserving players not in the mix, this is the best Misbah eleven barring Wahab Riaz/Umer Gul and we should win the first test if Misbah, Younis and Azhar Ali fire

  • on October 15, 2013, 1:17 GMT

    anwar ali or bilawal bhatti or razzak can be agood allrounders.what is the problemwith the slection comittee,looks like they have their own group of people who they want to keep bringing again,i amsurprised that imran farhat is not there.they shold pick them on performance and performance only.umar amin is a good player but has not done a thing,they are talking about him to replace misbah,let him prove that he is worth.right now he is nowhere.he is just an average.

  • somethingdifferent on October 14, 2013, 23:48 GMT

    It is good to see SA under pressure but please donot start celebrating just yet, Pakistani batting can be extremely unpredictable even in semi home conditions of UAE. Can we forget the match against Australia in UAE where we were out for around 50 twice.

  • t.feroze on October 14, 2013, 21:49 GMT

    Anwar Ali allrounder? avgs 20 in First class has just scored one hundered hahahaha. Ahmed shahzad agressive? look at his ODI strike rate please....... please see the stats and than make comments

  • SamRoy on October 14, 2013, 18:24 GMT

    Pakistan don't have an all-rounder and their batting is pretty weak. So they will not take the risk of playing 5 bowlers (as they need 6 batsman as their wicket-keeper also isn't very good at batting). In these dry pitches and high heat you have to play two specialist spinners because they are your main weapons. So if you have 4 bowling options and out of it are two are spinners, how can you play third seaming option?

  • zidi.raajput on October 15, 2013, 11:26 GMT

    Bowling is not a real problem for Pakistan .Pakistan cant afford to play another seamer to replace a Batsman .

  • CricketMaan on October 15, 2013, 8:48 GMT

    You must be super happy that you hav at least 2 seamsers and a two class spinners, we here in India have NO seamers and so-so spinners!! A bold step by PAK in many many years to blood youngsters to open. Persist with them and dont play ping pong with thier careers. Send them to county cricket for a month and make them play atleast 2-3 county games, then ask about thier performance!

  • Sirio on October 15, 2013, 4:57 GMT

    What will actually happen is that SA will somehow make another 100 - 125 runs and then Pakistan will out by less than 150 making it a follow-on and then they somehow play sensibly in their second inning to post a total of about 200 to SA who will eventually play 4th innings. The innings that SA wanted to avoid. Well done Pakistan.

  • Sirio on October 15, 2013, 4:53 GMT

    SA are smart to open the proceedings in the First test. Hence they will avoid 4th innings which Pakistan will play. The only thing Pakistan can do is to get SA out pretty quick today and hopefully play for next 2days to make 500 plus runs, or at least the lead of 250 - 300. That will make SA innings look like 4th innings. But wait. What am I saying? Pakistan playing 2 days and making 500 Plus runs!! am I kidding? I think I am. I am hallucinating.

  • alipaki on October 15, 2013, 1:43 GMT

    I can' under sand why people are against Misbah I think a part from series against zimbabwe and south africa Pakistan has done great under his leadership atleast in Tests and moreover I think Asad shafiq deserve more chances he played well against africa in africa infact scored a ton over there why people are asking to drop him

  • TheRealRockNRolla on October 15, 2013, 1:38 GMT

    *clap clap clap* great article. yes we are missing another fast bowler - Wahab should have been in if Gul was unfit but the battling line up is as solid as they come barring Umar Akmal Still all is well, Umar Akmal will get his chance later on...I am hoping Misbah and selector's faith in Azhar Ali pays off as he is the only odd man out for me. the rest of the batting line up for once looks solid. those ruing shehzad etc. probably did not watch the domestic season unfold there are other more deserving players not in the mix, this is the best Misbah eleven barring Wahab Riaz/Umer Gul and we should win the first test if Misbah, Younis and Azhar Ali fire

  • on October 15, 2013, 1:17 GMT

    anwar ali or bilawal bhatti or razzak can be agood allrounders.what is the problemwith the slection comittee,looks like they have their own group of people who they want to keep bringing again,i amsurprised that imran farhat is not there.they shold pick them on performance and performance only.umar amin is a good player but has not done a thing,they are talking about him to replace misbah,let him prove that he is worth.right now he is nowhere.he is just an average.

  • somethingdifferent on October 14, 2013, 23:48 GMT

    It is good to see SA under pressure but please donot start celebrating just yet, Pakistani batting can be extremely unpredictable even in semi home conditions of UAE. Can we forget the match against Australia in UAE where we were out for around 50 twice.

  • t.feroze on October 14, 2013, 21:49 GMT

    Anwar Ali allrounder? avgs 20 in First class has just scored one hundered hahahaha. Ahmed shahzad agressive? look at his ODI strike rate please....... please see the stats and than make comments

  • on October 14, 2013, 21:32 GMT

    Pakistan do not generally have a 3rd seamer while playing in test matches in spin-friendly conditions for the past couple of years, so I don't see the need for this article now. The only thing that has changed is that there was a 5th bowling option over the past couple of years, i.e. Hafeez; now he is no longer there so the two spinners will need to bowl more. That's it. On very flat pitches, where innings become unbearably long, Younis/Azhar etc can be utilised. Due to the lack of a good all-rounder (who bats well) and a wicket-keeper (who bats well), Pakistan has to play with 6 proper batsmen.

  • jb633 on October 14, 2013, 21:28 GMT

    I am not convinced by this article at all and I really don't think seam is the way for Pakistan to go. Today they were brilliant and they can hardly be ruing anything that happened. The only slight worry for Pak fans was the ease with which AB and Amla were able to read and play Ajmal. If Pak are to win this series they must find a way to combat these two guys as they are the real match winners for SA. I thought both seamers did as well as they could on this benign track but from now on in I expect spin to be the decisive factor in the test. Time for Robin Petereson to step up or be dropped for good IMO. With his consistently poor performances and a simple lack of ability he must be on a last chance to deliver for SA. I have a feeling Duminy could get a load of wickets in this series. He has a much under rated offie.

  • on October 14, 2013, 20:30 GMT

    I cant help but think that Pakistan under Misbah has run its course. He is making this team a mirror of himself defensive and negative. Why play Shan Masood, a negative defensive player ahead of Ahmed Shehzad, an aggressive classy stroke player... Why Asad Shafiq ahead of Umar Akmal.... Disappointed and dismayed.. I agree with Syed that we will be bundled out quickly and the game will be South Africas.

  • on October 14, 2013, 19:40 GMT

    I don't really think they are. I'm more certain we'll see a headline stating "SA ruing lack of second spinner" later this test match.

    In fact on these pitches last time the 2nd seamer barely bowled while ajmal and rehman bowled most of the time, with Junaid making inroads here and there. There was even discussion of having 3 specialist spinners with Junaid.

    Did you see Babar turn the bowl on day 1?

  • on October 14, 2013, 19:06 GMT

    SA 248/8 innit?Perhaps Pakistan will fare even worse, with Steyn, Morkel and Phillander to support SA. i wouldn't be surprised if Pakistan is bundled out for 150. we have a brittle batting line up, and lack a third seamer. Misbah is too defensive, and lacks that aggressive, a captain must have. Always on back foot from ball one. Team Pakistan's woes continue..................................

  • Desihungama on October 14, 2013, 18:53 GMT

    @ ihaq1 - That's not correct. We do have Anwar Ali and Bilawal Bhatti as genuine all rounders biting dust while Pak Selectors make hay in sunshine. Or is it too late to even call up Azhar Mahmood for a year or two? Abdul Razzaq may not also take your comment lightly of not having an all rounder in Pak Camp? And then there is Umar Amin too!

  • ihaq1 on October 14, 2013, 18:19 GMT

    it is essential to play five bowlers when your batting is weak...and saeed ajmal should attack rather bowl innocuous off spinners

  • ihaq1 on October 14, 2013, 18:16 GMT

    pakistan does not produce seam bowling alrounders...what we have is umer amin and younis khan who can bowl occasionally...i would have preferred a third spinner...abdur rehman can bat and getting south africa out around 200 could have happened...also i thought they should have played rahat ali who started to bowl well in zimbabwe instead of junaid khan who just cant take bags of wickets...anyway playing saeed ajmal as a stock bowler is not a good idea... even three bowlers can be rotated 4 overs each...although saeed ajmal can attack in teh second innings...the south africans could need duminy quite a lot even with four seamers and a pakistani batting lineup that can crumble easily

  • on October 14, 2013, 18:04 GMT

    this is not pitch in SA. Styen morkel and philander's opening spell in morning will be important but not later on.

    I think both teams will be happy at this stage. Pakistan happy because every body said it looked batting flat wicket on day 1 and pak lost toss. Looked as if they will be in for 2 days and SA will score 500. 248/8 is really good.

    Sa will be happy after the start they got and only 2 batsmen scoring runs means that 248 is a very decent score.

    With paksitan's weak batting lineup they fancy their chances. new ball spell from pacers of SA will be important.

    Pakistan do need a medium pace batting allrounder to balance the side.

    Younas and even shan can bowl medium pace. When things not working PAk should use part timers like younas,shan, azhar ali.

  • Albert_cambell on October 14, 2013, 17:51 GMT

    They did well to restrict us to score of 245-8. I dont think the 3rd seamer would have made big difference here. I would say the match is even. Pakistans batting in the 1st innings will decide the result of the game. I am sure we can restrict pakistan for 250-300 runs. Their batting is very fragile.

  • on October 14, 2013, 17:48 GMT

    "Pakistan would have thought they were in a similar position of advantage after they bowled South Africa out for 253 in their first innings at the Wanderers in February. That was the first, and only time, in the home summer that South Africa were challenged"-- And I thought Pakistan was on top in the second test most of the first 3 days. Thanks for clarifying.

  • on October 14, 2013, 17:44 GMT

    Not surprised to see the scorecard. Pakistan has more bowlers sitting on the bench that could be automatic starters in other world class teams! The problem is, besides a couple of batters, nobody really knows how to hold the bat and that too in a test match! Batters play the game as 10 over street match and therein lies the problem with Pakistan! If there is batting is even half as strong as bowling, they will certainly a handful to beat! I reckon Pakistan will be bowled out for less than 200 and still hand Saffers a pretty handy lead!

  • on October 14, 2013, 17:42 GMT

    the right option is to have 5 bowlers who can all bat or have hafeez at number 6..since ajmal,irfan,junaid all cant bat so they cant play 5 bowlers

  • on October 14, 2013, 17:36 GMT

    Same side lost to Zimbabwe???

  • JamesTHEwalldravid on October 14, 2013, 17:10 GMT

    Yes Firdose, you are 100% corret. Pakistans bowling has South africa at 248/8 on a flat track. Pakistan are obviously struggling and South Africa are clearly on top?

  • Fawwad_Siddiqui on October 14, 2013, 16:53 GMT

    Agree or not, Anwar Ali is the man to be groomed as third seemer. This guy can bat, move the ball bothways and what not. THey have already wasted 5 years of cricket of this guy, otherwise he would have had plenty of experience by today.

  • Dannymania on October 14, 2013, 16:28 GMT

    it was a great day of test cricket.Great batting from Hashim Amla and great bowling by all the pakistani bowlers.Zulfiqar Babar's inclusion was kind of a surprise for me but he proved that he is talented enough.I feel really really bad for Abdur Rehman though and dont know what else has he got to prove before he is considered before the other left arm spinners for a spot in the test team.I just think that Misbah doesnt like him, thats it.

  • Desihungama on October 14, 2013, 16:26 GMT

    Thanks Firdouse for clarifying Ajmal's role in this line up. He is being criticized as early as day 1 for not taking wickets but that is not essentially his role in this innings at least. he's been asked to hold one end tight and let the chips fall on the other. Job well done Pak.

  • Alphabaig on October 14, 2013, 16:24 GMT

    @ "But with the older ball, the South Africans found him easier to play" That is precisely why they played 2 seamers. If the bowlers who were initially threatening became easier to face with the older ball, the same would have happened to the third seamer.

    @"With South Africa at 222 for 8, they could have finished them off for under 250, but it was perhaps the lack of an additional bowler which made it difficult for them to achieve that. " It was the mis judged catch that did not allow them to finish the innings off.

    Firdose Moonda: The only argument that supports your statement is that Irfan left the field for an extended period of time. You might wanna think about your supporting arguments better in the future.

  • golgo_85 on October 14, 2013, 16:22 GMT

    Just like I had said in my comments on the match preview - they could've done well by grooming a seam bowling allrounder by now but heavens forfend!

  • on October 14, 2013, 16:14 GMT

    This is were Pakistan have waisted the likes of Azhar Mahmood, Abdul Razzaq and now Hamad Azam. They could easily fit in at No.6 and give an extra seaming option to the captain

  • SDHM on October 14, 2013, 16:11 GMT

    Yep, because when you have a side 245-8 after losing the toss on a decent batting wicket apparently you have the balance of your side wrong...

  • SDHM on October 14, 2013, 16:11 GMT

    Yep, because when you have a side 245-8 after losing the toss on a decent batting wicket apparently you have the balance of your side wrong...

  • on October 14, 2013, 16:14 GMT

    This is were Pakistan have waisted the likes of Azhar Mahmood, Abdul Razzaq and now Hamad Azam. They could easily fit in at No.6 and give an extra seaming option to the captain

  • golgo_85 on October 14, 2013, 16:22 GMT

    Just like I had said in my comments on the match preview - they could've done well by grooming a seam bowling allrounder by now but heavens forfend!

  • Alphabaig on October 14, 2013, 16:24 GMT

    @ "But with the older ball, the South Africans found him easier to play" That is precisely why they played 2 seamers. If the bowlers who were initially threatening became easier to face with the older ball, the same would have happened to the third seamer.

    @"With South Africa at 222 for 8, they could have finished them off for under 250, but it was perhaps the lack of an additional bowler which made it difficult for them to achieve that. " It was the mis judged catch that did not allow them to finish the innings off.

    Firdose Moonda: The only argument that supports your statement is that Irfan left the field for an extended period of time. You might wanna think about your supporting arguments better in the future.

  • Desihungama on October 14, 2013, 16:26 GMT

    Thanks Firdouse for clarifying Ajmal's role in this line up. He is being criticized as early as day 1 for not taking wickets but that is not essentially his role in this innings at least. he's been asked to hold one end tight and let the chips fall on the other. Job well done Pak.

  • Dannymania on October 14, 2013, 16:28 GMT

    it was a great day of test cricket.Great batting from Hashim Amla and great bowling by all the pakistani bowlers.Zulfiqar Babar's inclusion was kind of a surprise for me but he proved that he is talented enough.I feel really really bad for Abdur Rehman though and dont know what else has he got to prove before he is considered before the other left arm spinners for a spot in the test team.I just think that Misbah doesnt like him, thats it.

  • Fawwad_Siddiqui on October 14, 2013, 16:53 GMT

    Agree or not, Anwar Ali is the man to be groomed as third seemer. This guy can bat, move the ball bothways and what not. THey have already wasted 5 years of cricket of this guy, otherwise he would have had plenty of experience by today.

  • JamesTHEwalldravid on October 14, 2013, 17:10 GMT

    Yes Firdose, you are 100% corret. Pakistans bowling has South africa at 248/8 on a flat track. Pakistan are obviously struggling and South Africa are clearly on top?

  • on October 14, 2013, 17:36 GMT

    Same side lost to Zimbabwe???

  • on October 14, 2013, 17:42 GMT

    the right option is to have 5 bowlers who can all bat or have hafeez at number 6..since ajmal,irfan,junaid all cant bat so they cant play 5 bowlers