Pakistan in South Africa 2012-13 January 30, 2013

Peterson declared fit for opener


South Africa's only injury concern ahead of the first Test against Pakistan, Robin Peterson, has been declared fit and available for selection. Peterson tore the webbing between his third and little finger on his right hand during the first ODI against New Zealand 11 days ago and received stitches for the cut.

Although it was not his bowling hand that was affected, Peterson was unable to hold a bat or catch and Imran Tahir was added to the Test squad as cover. Peterson's recovery has gone according to plan though and he will remain South Africa's first-choice spinner for the match. Even so, do not be surprised if the hosts are considering fielding an all-pace attack for the first Test against Pakistan.

With a lot of grass left on one of the liveliest surfaces in the country two days before the match, South Africa may see the series opener as a way to lay down a marker, especially as they have part-timers Faf du Plessis and Dean Elgar in their ranks. But, they will need to be wary that Pakistan will look to do exactly the same.

The country's biggest stadium has not hosted a Test since November 2011 and it will be the bowlers that are most looking forward to the outing. "For me, it's very special, even just training here and having a run around at the Bullring," Morne Morkel said. "When I came and watched games here as a youngster, it was always special but it's also the sort of wicket that I enjoy bowling on. It suits my game."

While bounce is the feature everyone from Morkel to Saeed Ajmal will look forward to, it's the impact the more than two metre tall Mohammed Irfan can have that is most anticipated. If he plays, Irfan will be the tallest Test cricketer around and Morkel, who is probably the second-tallest, had some advice for the rookie.

"Obviously, his advantage is going to be bounce but to get that fuller length going, especially at the Wanderers is going to be the key," he said. "I find that on the bounce batsmen can leave you on length. The most important thing is to find a way to hit that fuller length consistently and at good pace. Where I have gone wrong is that as soon as I try to get fuller, I just put the ball there instead of still hitting the deck."

Morkel spotted the Australian team making use of some unusual equipment such as a box for their bowlers to stand on to replicate height and practice facing Morkel but he said South Africa's batsmen have done nothing of the sort and have "solid gameplans" even though they, like anyone else, may be intimidated by the sight of Irfan.

"If you speak to any batters around the world, a guy that is two metres tall and the amount of bounce he can get is a scary thing," Morkel said. "It's not about the amount of pace but it's the awkward bounce from quite a fullish length."

Morkel is one of the best executioners of that skill and while the South African batsmen are preparing to face it, he is gearing up to dish it out. Bouncing sub-continental line-ups out of the game is a common tactic of South Africa's when playing at home but Morkel is expecting Pakistan to put up stiff resistance.

He last played against them in late 2010 in a two-Test series in the United Arab Emirates. On lifeless pitches, South Africa were unable to bowl Pakistan out to win the match on both occasions which taught Morkel a little about their staying power. "They've got guys that can attack upfront and have guys in the middle that can bat time as well," he said. "They are not just going to be a team that can be flashy. It's hard work."

"They've got some experience with Younis Khan and Misbah in the middle. They are key guys that we need to target and get out quite early because can bat time." The pair were both not out at the end of the first Test in Dubai and Misbah was undefeated at the end of the second fixture as well.

"They are a dangerous team, they can always counterpunch and fight back. It's going to be important for us not to relax."

The series is expected to contrast starkly with the one South Africa have just played against New Zealand. Both matches were innings victories for South Africa and the series lasted a total of six days. While Morkel enjoyed dominating in that fashion, he prefers a tight contest and expects that to come over the next month.

"When you beat a team in three days, you get extra time to rest but there is nothing better than walking out there for five days and really feeling the blood, sweat and tears and enjoying that moment with the team," he said. "That's Test cricket, that's what you want to play for and what you wish for: for it to be as tough and hard as possible. That brings the team more together as well."

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • mahjut on January 31, 2013, 17:05 GMT

    the "elephant" in the room must be defined more clearly too: Amir has Morkel type averages while Asif's - although below 25 - played Oz in Oz and Eng in Eng at the 'end of his career' and ave'd 30 over those 7 tests! one can only assume he was on his way out at that time [well, one using lil'tom's method of investigation]. of course, junaid makes up the 3rd party in her fantasy Pk bowling line-up (he's so far only taken SL wickets - apart from the solitary Zim wkt @64ave). not exactly an elephant. PK still manage to produce world class bowlers though and this PK attack may still offer a surprise or two ... though one might venture to say they have not been genuinely tested in a good 2 years! As far as SA in Oz goes; what makes SA stand head above the rest at the moment is the ability to know when to strike ... aware their bats can defend a game why would their bowlers break their backs (only to miss the final test) on wkts offering nothing? Wait ... strike ... series!!

  • Amjad on January 31, 2013, 17:01 GMT

    LillianThomson: Familiarity with local conditions is absolutely necessary but the rest factor can't be ignored either. From my personal experience of whatever little cricket I used to play in my playing days, I tend to play well whenever I had a good fews days of rest as compared to playing regularly. Of course its different for different players, some might be more comfortable playing regularly but I think for most players the required amount of energy level is more crucial than having that rhythm going before the start of the series.

  • Junaid on January 31, 2013, 14:23 GMT

    My only concern is Irfan's fitness, I dont think he'll be able to bowl longer spells (anything more than 4-5 overs). Junaid looks a lot more fit and probably has more ability. SA looks better outfit in all disciplines but even they are pron to middle order collapse, a good spell from Gul, Junaid or Ajmal and Pak in business!In terms of batting, Nasir looks in got form and has pretty much all the shots in the book, hope he performs well...key would be to see off Morkel and Steyn's opening spell and then score runs with semi old ball. I cant wait for series to start, anticipating quality cricket and as @crashed said: May the best team win:)

  • Amjad on January 31, 2013, 14:04 GMT

    LillianThomson:"You would wish for a greentop, and to win the toss to insert South Africa, and bowl them out for less than 180 on Day 1. It's not Pakistan's best hope - it's their only hope." NAILED IT, I also dont see any other way of Pakistan winning but since watched them roll over india on dead pitches, i'd say there is a very good chance of Pak quick bowlers succeeding in restricting SA to a getable total.

  • mahjut on January 31, 2013, 13:49 GMT

    Lil'Tom ... what criteria are you using to conclude that this is a horribly weak era for batting and bowling? I can see how one might mistakenly reach that conclusion about bowlers due to deflated averages ... though Steyn and Vern have kept that to under 25 (i would say you can take off 5 from current bowlers averages to get a comparison with the 'OZ' era). You might again mistakenly conclude that batting these days is extraordinarily good with the likes of Kallis, Sanga, etc racking up averages easily above 55 [S Waugh and Hadyn were around 50] but you've concluded the other way despite SA having 50 averages pretty much from 1 though 6 [Smith, Amla, AB, Kallis, Faf] ... while others from the great Oz side (against mostly ordinary attacks - new bowlers aside, in a couple of teams) were averaging 41 (Mark Waugh), 45ish (Martyn) 42ish (Slater). It's quite hard to judge what is 'quite good' 'good' 'very good' 'great' but these averages probably suggest SA edge Waugh's Oz side ;)

  • ped on January 31, 2013, 13:43 GMT

    @Little Ian, give it a break. History will show Oz lost the series 1 - 0. U can gloss over statistics all u want, to try & make an arguement, however the series was lost!

    Lets focus on the current prospect, rather more exciting than watching a brilliant Clarke keeping an abysmal Oz side afloat. Pakistan are the most underrated side in the world. Given they don't play at home, how good have they been! On paper how exciting do the look!

    I for one can't wait to see their new talent & some old on display. They have a veritable conveyor belt of quality players. On paper SA is the more established & slightly better balanced side (not sure about Elgar), but with such great show stoppers in their ranks I would never right off Pakistan.

    The Pakistani batting has more mettle than in the past but is still a slight weakness. With Smith now becoming the first ever skipper to skipper past 100 I would say the incentive is their for SA to win.

    I can't wait.

  • Masood on January 31, 2013, 13:24 GMT

    Only thing that i have to say, if any one to loose is SA, because pakistan has already lost this series as i could see comments from South African fans.. we have all seen SA pace attack bowling in their own backyard and they are pretty much good at it, but i guess no body has seen junaid playing on bowling friendly wickets much.. You could see what happened to india when the bowling was swinging and seeming. I guess one might not forget the performance of junaid khan bowling in Irish conditions, he could be very devastating. Talking about pakistan batting.. u could never say they are bad, Misbah is key along with yunus, and watch out for naser jamshaid, no doubt amla is a run machine but our naser jamshaid is hungry for runs .. :P

    Be carefull Africans you are not fighting with black caps here .. You would be fighting with green caps and u already know, how pakistani players are...

  • David on January 31, 2013, 13:20 GMT

    @SherjiIslam, I don't think you have noticed the passage of Old Father Time.

    Jacques Kallis is still an excellent batsman, and I don't dispute that for a second, although some day soon that will desert him too.

    But he hasn't been a Test all-rounder for several years, because 37.5 year old fast bowlers don't have a place in Test cricket.

    In the last 4 years - since he was 33 years old - he has taken 27 Test wickets in 29 Test matches at a cost of 44.96 runs per wicket.

    That is why South Africa is seriously considering playing Rory Kleinveldt at a fourth quick bowler, because they know that Kallis can't fill that role in Test matches any more.

    My money is on South Africa to win 3-0, to be honest.

    But sooner or later Kallis will lose it as a geriatric batsman too, while de Villiers' batting is surely weakened by keeping wicket too. Add an opener who is of doubtful Test class (Peterson) and two rookie middle-order batsmen in Elgar and FAF and this might just be a contest.

  • Aman on January 31, 2013, 12:54 GMT

    I hope its an evenly contested Test series for the sake of tests though i have liitle expectation from this below average Pakistan side, apart from a win over England they have been very pathetic either side of that series be it tests, T20 or Odis and their current ranking i all formats show that, though they should take some confidence from their performance against India, but still i do not think they'll be of any match to South Africa.

  • Dummy4 on January 31, 2013, 12:41 GMT

    A great hype of the event everywhere. Pakistan is a very good team and should have been given more good test matches then they are getting now. I think there must be more tests between India Vs Pakistan, Australia Vs Pakistan, England Vs Pakistan and S.A Vs Pakistan.

    Pakistan provides a thrill just because of their quality bowling attack. Spin is proven and time after time they tell the world that they have a natural nursary inside Pakistan from where they generate extra ordinary fast bowlers. I really like the response of the people about this series. I really love my country

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