Pakistan v South Africa, 2nd Test, Dubai October 22, 2013

South Africa's resilience put to test


Match facts

October 23-27, 2013
Start time 1000 local (0600 GMT)

Big Picture

It was expected that South Africa wouldn't have it easy going into the first Test. The No. 1 ranking comes with high expectations to adjust quickly to conditions, no matter what they are. However, South Africa succumbing with more than a day to spare in Abu Dhabi was a surprise.

The visitors had a warm-up game before the Test but were still undercooked, after months of inactivity as a Test unit. The five-day gap between Tests might still not be enough to figure out how to square the series, but South Africa have shown in the past that they have the resilience to bounce back in adversity.

Pakistan's clinical performance was not that much of a surprise either. They are a transformed team in the UAE, when compared to how they perform on away tours. Ask England. Pakistan trounced the former No.1 side 3-0 in early 2012 and their most recent win in Abu Dhabi was their fourth consecutive victory against a top-ranked team in the UAE.

The result was received with much fanfare largely because of the gloom that followed that embarrassing defeat in Harare a month ago. The top order had looked wobbly, the middle order depended far too much on Misbah-ul-Haq and there were doubts over whether Pakistan had not only the hunger but the resources to succeed in Tests. That they turned it around so quickly has lifted the mood among their fans.

South Africa will not be able to field their best XI, with their best batsman and only centurion from Abu Dhabi, Hashim Amla, flying home for the birth of his child. Dale Steyn has fitness concerns too, and though he wasn't at his best in Abu Dhabi, his participation remains critical. Spin remains their biggest chink: Robin Peterson or JP Duminy cannot run through sides like Saeed Ajmal can. South Africa's seamers identified the correct lengths - a fuller one - to bowl on these pitches rather late in the first Test, when they had all of 40 to defend. They need to apply that more consistently to test Pakistan.

Should South Africa lose, they will still retain their No.1 ranking but it will narrow the gap between them and England. Pakistan will finish the series at No. 4 irrespective of what happens in Dubai. A draw is enough to seal the series, 1-1 will also improve their ranking, but 2-0 will extinguish the demons of Zimbabwe.

In the spotlight

Teams tend to retain a winning combination, but Azhar Ali is under pressure to keep his spot. He has looked a shadow of the batsman who dominated England last year and his troubles began in South Africa earlier this year. Azhar had scores of 11 and 3 in Abu Dhabi and his struggle has increased pressure on the senior players below him in the line-up. Pakistan might want to sandwich him between Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan or swap him with Asad Shafiq at No.6.

The stripped-down DRS without Hot Spot in the first Test did not strengthen the case for technology. When decisions were referred, play was held up for longer than usual, because the third umpire had to work with limited resources. Sometimes there was a sound as the ball passed the bat, but with no obvious deviation to back it up, it was a conundrum for the third umpire. Umpires will continue to be under pressure in these conditions and with no Hot Spot for the Ashes, it could be more of the same in the coming months.

Team news

With Amla absent, South Africa are likely to play Dean Elgar. Another option is to bring in the wicketkeeper Thami Tsolekile and play AB de Villiers as a specialist batsman. The team manager Mohammed Moosajee said that Steyn's MRI didn't reveal a hamstring pull and so they are treating it as a tightness. Steyn will undergo a fitness test on the morning of the match, and if he misses out, Rory Kleinveldt may play. Smith also hinted at playing the legspinner Imran Tahir.

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

Pakistan were non committal on possible changes. With the pitch expected to turn more, there was talk of bringing in Abdur Rehman as the third spinner, at the expense of a batsman.

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 Saeed Ajmal, 9 Zulfiqar Babar, 10 Junaid Khan, 11 Mohammad Irfan

Pitch and conditions

After the first Test, Misbah had called for another "result pitch" in Dubai. The word is that it is expected to assist the spinners even more, but Misbah described it as a "typical Dubai wicket which we've played on before."

Stats and trivia

  • Misbah has 11 Test wins as captain, currently level with Inzamam-ul-Haq. If Pakistan win, he will equal Wasim Akram who has 12 wins. Imran Khan and Javed Miandad top the list with 14 wins as captain.
  • South Africa last lost a Test series in early 2009, against Australia.


"We've got enough experience around the group and good reference points to fall back on. Pakistan have played well in the UAE and we respect that. They are creating a little fortress here. Hopefully we can break through that."
Graeme Smith says his team will draw from previous experiences in the UAE

"We don't want to be complacent and think the top bowler and batsman are not playing."
Misbah-ul-Haq says Pakistan's preparation will not change because Amla is out and Steyn is in doubt

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on October 23, 2013, 7:31 GMT

    Azhar must have to change his approach as his causal style is not only costing the team but also costing him the place in the playing XI...

  • Android on October 23, 2013, 5:42 GMT

    sa has a good chance for early wickets..lets see

  • David on October 23, 2013, 5:33 GMT

    @ Sunair makes the tired old claim that "South Africans cannot play spin we all have seen in Abu Dhabi. For Dubai test Pakistan should play with three seamers, because Dubai wicket helps seamers alot, which he have against England.'

    Sunair - sis you follow the match?? I don't think so. 55% of SA wickets fell to spin. 40% fell to pace. In SA's 1st innings the top 4 SA batsmen fell to pace, AB was run out by the 3rd umpire, and the tail fell to spin.

    In SA's second innings 2 of the top 5 fell to spni, & 3 fell to pace. In Pakistan's first innings, 2 fell to spin & 3 fell to pace - exactly the same result. The SA tail fell to spin, the Pak tail fell to pace.

    If, as you claim, SA cannot play spin, then Pak cannot play pace.

  • Abrar on October 23, 2013, 5:29 GMT

    @ badmaash Good Joke Dear, proper technique and temperament are way behind of Fawad Alam, in fact his batting Technique and footwork is horrible and against good quality bowling attack he can't survive.

  • Mel on October 23, 2013, 4:51 GMT

    Wrong South Africa beat Australia in 2009 2-1.

  • Dummy4 on October 23, 2013, 4:25 GMT

    Go ahead Africa hope they wins it.Though um not a big fan of them but still i like S.Africa.

  • Dummy4 on October 23, 2013, 4:03 GMT

    Khurram Manzoor I would give a chance because while he has brain freeze moments, his technique is decent and his aggression is necessary to put pressure on opposition.

    Shan masood is mediocre and edges and misses more than he finds the middle of the bat and I expect him to be exposed sooner rather than later.

    Azhar Ali, whether in form or not, is a negative choice for no.3. We need a more balanced batsman similar to Umar Akmal, Younis Khan , Mohamad Yousuf or Fawad Alam in this spot.

    Azhar Ali's extremely slow batting, slower than Misbah by far, just puts the team in stalemate and unlike Misbah, even when he tries to score he ends up just frustrating himself.

    Umar Amin is not the answer, his technique is shoddyand while he has seemed OK in recent times he is not one for the future

  • Dummy4 on October 23, 2013, 4:02 GMT

    Let Ajmal show whatever caliber he has ,if ajmal did not claim 10 -15 wkts in this test ,he should be kicked out of team ,he is there to take wkts and not a container.

  • Pappu on October 23, 2013, 3:29 GMT

    Fawad Alam is the man to replace Misbah & Younis. In the upcoming crop of players he is only one with proper technique and the temperament to play the long innings that win tests.

  • Dummy4 on October 23, 2013, 2:42 GMT

    Steyn injury drama is all about adding imran tahir into the team and want to get rid of steyn as the conditions require more spinning options besides duminy and robin peterson

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