South Africa tour of UAE 2013-14 October 20, 2013

Whatmore aims for strong series finish

Dav Whatmore has first-hand experience of how South Africa deal with losing. Thirteen years ago, they were cleaned up by an innings and 15 runs in Galle, thanks to a 13-wicket Muttiah Muralitharan special, and responded with a seven-run win in Kandy to square the series. Jacques Kallis is the only survivor from that tour but Whatmore believes South Africa still retain that attitude.

"They are very hard, very resilient," the Pakistan coach said. "You write them off at your peril because they come back hard." With that in mind, Pakistan know what to expect as they aim to account for another No.1 side and Whatmore believes they've had enough time to ready themselves for that.

He attributed Pakistan's success in the first Test to three key things, chief among them being sufficient practice. "We're better prepared against this opposition than we were the last time we played them in South Africa," he said. When Pakistan were white-washed 3-0 earlier in March this year, they had not played a Test for seven months but this time they had matches in Zimbabwe and practice games at home before the series.

With game time under the belts and changes to the squad, Pakistan were better equipped to exploit the 'home' advantage. "Conditions are different and we've had a slight change of personnel. It was a good, competitive effort over the four days."

Mohammad Hafeez's axing is thought to have sparked the change as Pakistan experimented with new openers and enjoyed success. Whatmore praised the selectors but stopped short of using one game to forecast long-term plans.

"Some credit should be given to the selectors, in terms of the ability to see Shan Masood. He is a good batsman, technically, and has a bright future," he said. "That's the thing with bold decisions, sometimes they come off, sometimes not.

"With Khurram, he played a lot of first-class cricket in Pakistan and you need that. Players have to go through a hard grind. He has the benefit of doing that. He came in with a bank of runs behind him and there was every chance he would do well. Now, he has to be consistent. This next match is a test for him but he certainly has the ability."

For Whatmore, Pakistan's win was a demonstration of their potential as a unit, something he knew all along. "I wasn't surprised we did well. Leading up to this series, people in Pakistan were alluding to the loss in Zimbabwe and were saying we didn't have a chance. In my mind that was never the case. I knew we could be competitive. We're better prepared. Conditions are different. We have other players. These things do matter."

And they will matter again when Pakistan take the field on Wednesday hoping to pull off another coup and prompt the decline of another No.1. South Africa's lead at the top of the Test rankings will be cut by 10 points if they lose two-nil (it currently sits at 19), which may be one reason Misbah said he would ask for a "result pitch" in Dubai.

Whatmore, however, said he had given the groundsman "no instructions" on what to do and that he has "prepared the pitch as he always does." Since Pakistan have been forced to make the UAE their home, Dubai has hosted four Tests with only one, against South Africa in 2010, a draw.

In that game, Pakistan had fought back after conceding a first-innings deficit. Misbah had said it felt like a win and Whatmore indicated he wouldn't be unhappy if the same thing happens again.

"I want to win the series. One-nil is just as good as two-nil," Whatmore said. "A hard-fought draw is very important for every team. I won't be upset if we don't win as long as we finish the game well." And that will mean not finishing it the way Sri Lanka did in Kandy.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent