Pakistan v South Africa, 2nd Test, Dubai October 21, 2013

Pakistan focussed on timely success

Pakistan's Test return to the UAE brought immediate rewards with a fine victory in Abu Dhabi over the No. 1 team and a performance to match this week can earn them another notable desert scalp

Of all the qualities sportsmen are respected for - skills, ruthlessness, temperament - timing is one of the characteristics they take great pride in having. It demonstrates not only an understanding of the right moment to strike but an ability to do so and combines both brain and brawn.

For batsmen, timing is the difference between the silken cover drive that finds the fielder and the one that pierces through the eye of a needle. For bowlers, it is following up four standard deliveries with the slower ball to deceive his target. For Pakistan, it is winning a series to break a streak of mediocrity following their triumph over the then No. 1 side England in early 2012.

Since then, Pakistan have played just nine Tests and won only two. Scheduling may have had something to do with their inconsistent showings but they have an opportunity to turn that around over the next week. Victory over South Africa, be it in the Dubai Test or simply in the series overall, will come at the perfect time for Pakistan cricket, just when questions were starting to mount following their shock defeat against Zimbabwe.

"This is a good time for us to win. There are a lot of people waiting for us to win," Younis Khan said. For most sports teams any time is a good time for victory but for Pakistan now is particularly significant because it will prove their success against England was not a one-off. Following that series, Pakistan lost back-to-back series in Sri Lanka and South Africa, their ability to adapt to conditions away from the UAE was in the spotlight, and there were mushrooming doubts over the personnel they depended on.

Although beating South Africa here will not ease concerns over the first of those it will ease worries that Pakistan's cutting edge had rusted and justify some of their selections. "The last time we played against South Africa in their home and the way they beat us, it hurt," Younis said, using the same emotion South Africa have repeated multiple times after their defeat in Abu Dhabi.

"This is the right time to win against them. During the first match, we said to ourselves that if we win this game by 10 wickets or an innings it will be very nice. And now it is a good time again. If we make it 2-0 it will be very good for us."

In the end, Pakistan won by seven wickets and their coach Dav Whatmore has indicated he won't put all his emphasis on a win in Dubai, because a 1-0 scoreline would be "as good as 2-0," but the players are talking a different language.

Misbah-ul-Haq said he wants a result pitch in Dubai and Younis' talk of 2-0 revealed a similarly attacking mindset. He confirmed Pakistan will employ cautious intent in the quest to overturn a South Africa side that has not lost a series away from home in more than seven years. "We will try out best to make it 2-0. We are thinking positively at the moment. I hope the players take that seriously and if South Africa make mistakes, we take advantage."

An obvious South Africa error in the first Test was the way they bowled in Pakistan's first innings. A lethargic and ineffective showing allowed Pakistan's opening batsmen to record their best partnership since that England series when Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar added 114. Younis, though, said it also served as an indication the younger players were developing, something he has made himself personally responsible for overseeing recently.

"Shan Masood is my team-mate in Pakistan at domestic level. Before this series, we had a camp in Karachi and he worked with me. We talked about this series and how we were going to approach this series, especially when playing the spinners," Younis said. "And Khurram Manzoor is also a good young guy. He always plays positive cricket and I told him to keep playing that way. We have some young good players coming in and hopefully they will keep coming in."

Pakistan's choices have also included bringing in left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar, who the South Africans admitted surprised them a little, and the welcome return to full fitness of Mohammad Irfan. With a squad they were confident in, Younis said Pakistan approached this series with renewed enthusiasm and desire. "We were very keen do very well against South Africa, because we knew if we did well, our supporters would be very happy."

Although playing in the UAE does not compare with being at home, Pakistan feel they have established a strong hold here, where there is a significant expatriate community. "The people follow us here and support us here. We miss cricket in Pakistan, we really do, but this is like home situation for us as well," Younis said.

Having not played Tests here since beating England, Pakistan were thrilled to be back. Even team manager Moin Khan said he felt a difference in the energy around the team. "They were pumped up when we started this series. I am looking forward to the same mood of the team for this match. The body language is very positive," he said.

It is the right time for Pakistan to be showing such signs of intent, with a 1-0 lead in a short series and every chance of another big scalp as far as series wins in the UAE go. By the end of this week, they will discover whether the timing of their heightened focus can bring significant rewards.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 22, 2013, 19:03 GMT

    @Zahidsaltin, I agree 100% and it is clear for the world to see if they actually want to look. Umpire over the last 7-8 years at least have consistently made really bad umpiring mistakes against Pakistan. I is because Pakistan in the world of cricket politics is extremely weak and can do little about the umpires.

  • Jawwad on October 22, 2013, 14:04 GMT

    Well Hunnbel, You should know that B only happens if A had occurred. If habitually bad character Asif had not messed up things for himself and Amir, we probably would not have seen the likes of Irfan, Junaid Maybe! That's because he filtered through domestic circuit. Also, Pakistan is noting recent surge in good players ever since the likes of Rashid Latif's and Aqib Javed's invested into academies took upon as their responsibilities to prep players whereas the previous greats Miandad and Imran never groomed anyone. Hence, we now have a better pool of players to field multiple teams across all three formats and then you have your M. Amir flexing his muscles and can't wait to get back in. These are all very good signs.

  • shahid on October 22, 2013, 10:19 GMT

    Pakistan series loss to Sirilanka wasn't decided by cricket. Umpires made 21 bad decisions in that series and 17 of them went against Pakistan. Younis Khan was wrongly given out on 3 occasions. It was the worst umpiring of my watching international cricket for 35 years.

  • Dummy4 on October 22, 2013, 4:23 GMT

    @ImmadAzIm - Brother how can you forget famous series victory over England in 2005 under Inzi leadership when they toured Pakistan after winning Ashes against then world no. 1 Australian team. Also Pakistan won against SA in 2003.

  • I on October 22, 2013, 0:50 GMT

    It's not as dire a record as it's made out here. The loss Sri Lanka was entirely down to shocking umpiring, Pakistan played the better cricket throughout, just look up the matches. Zimbabwe thoroughly earned their draw, no doubt about that, and Pakistan were under prepared and undercooked for the tour to SA, and were duly beat, being on top for only 2 days in the series and getting the bowling selection all wrong. Add to that the ashoka da silva special that cost them their last series in the West Indies, and you'll see that it's been a middling few years, interspersed with flashes of brilliance, not them being a mediocre team.

  • Gudu on October 21, 2013, 23:29 GMT

    Dave Whatmore is a pathetic coach. He has defensive mindset. Pakistan's cricket has changed under his supervision. He has made Pakistani team too defensive whereas our real way was attacking cricket.

  • Umair on October 21, 2013, 22:32 GMT

    "Younis, though, said it also served as an indication the younger players were developing, something he has made himself personally responsible for overseeing recently."

    It would be nice if the author had elaborated on the second part of that sentence. I am curious to know what Younis said and how exactly he has claimed responsibility for overseeing the development of younger players. This is news to me.

  • Dummy4 on October 21, 2013, 21:47 GMT

    @ImmadAzim: Yes I can remember series won under Inzi in Pakistan e.g. against England and India.. Can`t you?

  • Faraz on October 21, 2013, 20:48 GMT

    Pakistan need to get rid of dav whatmore, he brings apathy and lazy mindset to the team, we have attributed the defensive mindset as being that of Misbah till now but I see stark similarities to the way whatmore thinks and as a coach saying 1-0 is as good as 2-0 is absolute rubbish - the points are different the ranking is different and above all the feeling is different. the win has nothing to do with dav whatmore and he should be let go

  • Dummy4 on October 21, 2013, 18:44 GMT

    it willnot be easy for pak. 2nd innings in 1st match has raised some questions again on pakistan batting lineup. so they have to be on top of their game once more. That was a flatter wicket and dubai is said to be more towards turning side. Pak should make it more turning than a dry flatter one.