South Africa v Pakistan, 1st Test, Johannesburg January 30, 2013

Batting Pakistan's Achilles' heel

Pakistan's bowling compares favourably with that of the hosts but the visitors' batting will undoubtedly hold the key to their fortunes
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At first glance, South Africa, the No. 1 Test team, seem clear favourites in the upcoming series against Pakistan. Since the beginning of 2008, South Africa have lost only one series at home and won twice in Australia and England.

Pakistan, on the other hand, have had a mixed bag of results in the same period. They were beaten convincingly in Australia (2009-10) and England (2010) but turned their fortunes around by beating England 3-0 in the UAE at the beginning of 2012. However, given Pakistan's unpredictability, the result of the series is hard to predict. On their previous tour of South Africa in 2006-07, Pakistan won the second Test and missed out on a great chance to register a series win in the third Test in Cape Town. The variety in Pakistan's bowling will test the hosts but the visitors' batting frailties are just as likely to be exposed against a top-quality attack in pace-friendly conditions.

Pakistan played their first Test against South Africa in Johannesburg in 1995 and lost by a huge margin of 324 runs. South Africa also won their first series in Pakistan in 1997 but were upstaged in Durban (1998) by 29 runs in a low-scoring game. Pakistan's next win in South Africa came in 2006-07 when they won by five wickets in Port Elizabeth. Overall, South Africa have the superior head-to-head record winning eight Tests and losing three. In the previous series played between the two teams, both matches ended in high-scoring draws as the South African pace bowlers struggled to bowl out Pakistan on flat tracks in the UAE. The visitors, looking to become the most successful subcontinent team in South Africa, will draw confidence from the fact that their varied bowling attack was a major factor behind both their wins in South Africa.

Pakistan in Tests against South Africa
  Played Wins Losses Draws W/L ratio
Overall 18 3 8 7 0.37
Home 7 1 2 4 0.50
Away 9 2 6 1 0.33
Neutral 2 0 0 2 -

As has been the case with all subcontinent teams, Pakistan have also struggled on the batting front in South Africa. In five Tests played in South Africa since 2000, Pakistan average 24.24 with the bat while the hosts average a much higher 37.66. Both teams, however, have the same number of centuries (4) while South Africa have a higher number of five-wicket hauls (3). In the same period, the teams have played each other four times in Pakistan winning one Test each. At home, Pakistan have a much better batting average (35.98) compared to their performance in South Africa. The average difference (difference between Pakistan's batting average and bowling average) at home (-2.04) is significantly better than the corresponding number in Tests in South Africa (-13.42). South Africa also batted and bowled Pakistan in the two Tests played in the UAE in 2010 but were unable to emerge with a win. Overall, South Africa have a superior average (41.00) and more centuries (14) and five-fors (8).

Pakistan's stats v South Africa (Tests since 2000)
  Matches Wins/Losses Bat avg Bowl avg Avg diff 100s (Pak/SA) 5WI(Pak/SA)
Tests in South Africa 5 1/4 24.24 37.66 -13.42 4/4 1/3
Tests in Pakistan 4 1/1 35.98 38.02 -2.04 1/5 2/4
Tests in UAE 2 0/0 45.30 57.11 -11.81 1/5 1/1
Overall 11 2/5 31.21 41.00 -9.79 6/14 4/8

Pakistan's greatest strength over the years has been their bowling attack. A top-class pace/spin combination has consistently given them opportunities to win Tests abroad. Since 2010, South Africa, unsurprisingly, have had the best numbers for pace bowlers. In 28 matches, South Africa's fast bowlers have picked up 384 wickets (wickets per match 13.71) at an excellent average of 25.95. In contrast, their spinners have picked up 81 wickets at a much higher average of 45.97. Pakistan fast bowlers, who have picked up 221 wickets in 26 Tests, have the fourth-best average (30.30) behind those of South Africa, Australia and England. However, they have the best average on the spin front. Saeed Ajmal, who has picked up 104 wickets in his last 18 Tests, has the best average (24.47) and strike rate (58.3) among spinners in Tests since 2010 (min 50 wickets). The narrow difference (1.76) between averages of Pakistan spinners and pace bowlers is bettered only by England, who have a corresponding number of 0.95.

Pace/spin stats for top teams since Jan 2010
Team Matches Pace (wickets/avg) Pace (5WI) Spin (wickets/avg) Spin (5WI)
South Africa 28 384/25.95 22 81/45.97 0
Australia 33 427/28.16 20 118/37.11 5
England 37 417/29.19 14 199/30.14 14
Pakistan 26 221/30.30 9 221/28.44 9
West Indies 26 229/32.55 11 143/39.15 5
New Zealand 23 218/35.75 8 79/48.51 2
India 35 260/37.26 7 268/37.80 12
Sri Lanka 28 148/52.57 3 209/32.05 13

The hosts' outstanding batting strength can be gauged from the fact their batting line-up possesses three of the five batsmen who average more than 60 (2000-plus runs) since 2010. Only Alastair Cook has scored more centuries (13) than Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis, who have scored 12 centuries each. While Amla and Kallis have more centuries than fifties, AB de Villiers has struggled to convert his half-centuries to three-figure scores. While Graeme Smith, who is set to become the first player to lead in a 100 Tests, has scored over 2000 runs at an average of 48.28, his opening partner Alviro Petersen, has been less successful scoring 1514 runs at 42.05.

As expected, both Amla and Kallis have excellent numbers against pace and spin. While Amla has slightly better values of average and balls-per-dismissal against pace, Kallis has the better numbers against spinners. De Villiers has comparatively lower numbers against pace bowling but outperforms Kallis and Amla against spin. While Smith has fairly even stats against fast and slow bowling, Petersen has struggled against spin with an average of 29.41 and a balls-per-dismissal value of 65.58.

South Africa's top batsmen in Tests since Jan 2010
Batsman Matches Runs Average 100/50 Pace (avg/balls per dismissal) Spin (avg, balls per dismissal)
Hashim Amla 28 2912 69.33 12/10 74.88/125.84 68.92/139.14
Jacques Kallis 27 2569 67.60 12/5 64.47/121.56 77.00/132.42
AB de Villiers 28 2306 62.32 5/12 54.52/93.24 85.00/157.54
Graeme Smith 28 2173 48.28 8/10 47.96/79.63 47.08/96.25
Alviro Petersen 21 1514 42.05 5/5 50.43/92.95 29.41/65.58

Younis Khan, who has scored three centuries in his last four Tests against South Africa, averages nearly 60 since the beginning of 2010. He also played a pivotal role in Pakistan's win in Port Elizabeth in 2006. Azhar Ali, who is the highest run-getter for Pakistan in the same period, averages 45.27 with four centuries and 13 fifties. Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan's captain, averages 58.60 but has a very poor ratio of centuries to fifties (1:13). Mohammad Hafeez, who has scored three centuries at an average of 41.35, is likely to be partnered at the top of the order by Taufeeq Umar or Nasir Jamshed.

Both Younis and Azhar have very similar stats against fast bowlers. Against spinners, however, Younis has been the better player; he averages 75.50 and has a balls-per-dismissal value of 149.40 while Azhar has corresponding numbers of 47.80 and 141.00. While Misbah has very good numbers against pace and spin, Hafeez and Taufeeq have had their struggles especially against spin (averages 34.92 and 35.90 respectively).

Pakistan's top batsmen in Tests since Jan 2010
Batsman Matches Runs Average 100/50 Pace (avg/balls per smissal) Spin (avg/balls per dismissal)
Azhar Ali 24 1811 45.27 4/13 43.76/96.76 47.80/141.00
Younis Khan 16 1305 59.31 4/5 45.83/96.83 75.50/149.40
Misbah-ul-Haq 18 1287 58.50 1/13 67.77/169.66 52.07/111.53
Mohammad Hafeez 18 1282 41.35 3/5 46.00/74.33 34.92/61.84
Taufeeq Umar 18 1214 37.93 3/5 39.00/81.90 35.90/91.45

Since 2010, both South Africa and Pakistan have had five century opening stands but the hosts average higher. Similarly, for the second wicket, South Africa have a higher average but the same number of century partnerships (8). With Amla and Kallis have been in top form, South Africa average a superb 76.11 (ten century stands) for the third wicket. In contrast, Pakistan have struggled averaging just 33.43 (two century stands). The hosts' dominance extends to the fourth-wicket partnership as well but the trend is reversed for the fifth wicket. Pakistan have more centuries (7) and a higher average (47.48) than the hosts. However, South Africa are by far the better team in terms of averages for wickets 6-10.

Partnership stats for the two teams (since Jan 2010)
Wicket SA (Innings) SA (Runs/avg) SA (100/50 stands) Pakistan (Innings) Pakistan (Runs/avg) Pakistan (100/50 stands)
1 49 2038/42.45 5/9 51 1710/34.89 5/9
2 48 2677/56.95 8/8 49 2271/48.31 8/10
3 47 3349/76.11 10/11 47 1538/33.43 2/7
4 43 2307/56.26 8/8 46 1883/44.83 6/7
5 40 1323/34.81 3/7 42 1947/47.48 7/9
6 38 1587/45.34 5/9 42 757/19.41 0/3
7 35 898/27.21 1/7 38 819/23.40 0/7
8-10 87 1934/23.30 1/10 102 1517/15.17 1/5

In Johannesburg, the venue for the first Test, teams batting first have had no significant advantage, winning and losing two matches each. However, in Cape Town and Centurion, teams batting first have struggled badly winning just one and losing 11 Tests. The first-innings average is the highest in Cape Town (30.77) and lowest in Centurion (25.16). While the second-innings averages in Johannesburg and Cape Town are not much higher than the corresponding first-innings numbers, the difference is massive in Centurion (second-innings average of 48.44).

Both Centurion and Cape Town have third-innings averages below 30 while Johannesburg has a corresponding average of 34.45. Cape Town, which has shown a trend to ease out as the match progresses, has a fourth-innings average of 46.59 while the other two venues have averages of 28.62 and 35.58 respectively. Pace bowlers have picked up the highest percentage of wickets (bowler wickets only) in Johannesburg (84.55%) followed by Centurion (79.76%). Despite picking up very few wickets, spinners have the best average at the Wanderers (33.85) followed by Cape Town (37.93).

Venue stats since Jan 2007
Venue Matches Result% Bat first (wins/losses) Avg (1st inns/2nd inns) Avg (3rd inns/4th inns) Pace (wkts/avg) Spin (wkts/avg)
Johannesburg 4 100 2/2 28.45/28.56 34.45/28.62 115/28.34 21/33.85
Cape Town 9 83.3 1/6 30.77/32.35 28.63/46.59 217/30.28 60/37.93
Centurion 6 77.7 0/5 25.16/48.44 26.41/35.58 138/31.87 35/40.57

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sinhaya on January 31, 2013, 1:02 GMT

    In test cricket the following are the facts. Bowlers win matches, batsmen can put you in a winning position but they can lose matches with one horrible session. Pakistan has the bowling attack to win tests but their batting is the weak link. The series will be decided by how the Pakistani batsmen tackle the top class SA bowling barrage. Good luck Pakistan.

    Pakistan are unpredictable as shown always. I hardly see them draw test matches as should they win, they do it by day 4 as shown by their test wins against England in UAE and also their test wins in England in 2010 against England and Australia which was registered by day 4. I guess the Pakistani batsmens lack of tendency to last 5 sessions is the reason that the games does not go on till day 5 when Pakistan play.

  • Blal on January 31, 2013, 0:29 GMT

    I think Pakistan is going to miss Mohd Yousuf in South Africa. Along with Younis and Misbah, he would have given the Pak middle order the strength and experience that it appears to be lacking now, specially against a pace-battery that is number one in the world and playing in their own back yard. In my opinion, Pakistani 11 for the first test should have read like this:

    Hafeez, Jamshed, Azhar, Yousuf, Younis, Misbah, Sarfraz, Gul, Junaid, Ajmal, Irfan

    Hoping to be proved wrong, I would say that in the final analysis Pakistan is going to miss Mohd Yousuf.

    @gsingh7: Sky won't fall if Pakistan loses the series 3-0 as it did not fall when India lost 4-0 twice in their last tours abroad even though batting wasn't their Achilles' heel! And if I am not wrong India lost home series against the English team as well, while Pakistan beat the same English team 3-0.

  • SK14 on January 31, 2013, 23:14 GMT

    Funny I see more Indian fans over here then SA fans, I guess we really did hit them hard in our previous tour. Look SA is one heck of a team, they have won in both ENG and AUS this year, their form is absolutely formidable. At this point in time I don't think any team in the world can beat SA, home or away. I just hope Pakistan put up a good fight and challenge this formidable SA side. A victory over here will be 100x better then any victory over India :)

  • ImpartialExpert on January 31, 2013, 20:52 GMT

    Hoping for a good match. Pakistani batsmen should not put too much pressure on themselves and should initially aim for 250. Their bowling lineup is strong enough to put any opposition under pressure. One thing to note for Pakistani bowlers is that it's not enough to get 5 or 6 wickets cheaply as our Indian bowlers found out during our recent overseas tours. It's important not to leak too many runs bowling to tailenders. This is where Ajmal and Irfan can come in. If they have planned something even for the tailenders then the contest could well be a close one.

  • FighterKallis on January 31, 2013, 20:09 GMT

    After Yousuf there is a vacant position to be filled.Younis is good, but jamshed, shafiq,they haven't played much. Test cricket is different from Odi. hafeez, Irfan are not test stuff. Ajmal is overrated player who has not much left in him . he is already 35. one bad tour he will be out of the team. In tests you have to play as a team like the windies of 80's australians of the 90's.Now southafrica have settled as a team and the have only one or two changes but for pakis they do not know where to put whom. They can dominate a session of the day but they can't come even closer. sorry friends watch out my words.This is a one sided contest. biff and his team is going to humiliate this overrated pakis. Hail the king kallis and the prince amla.

  • mkazmi on January 31, 2013, 17:26 GMT

    One thing to note is the fielding will be the key here. Pakistan on average drop 4-5 catches per innings. They need to take 14-15 wickets per innings and close to 30 wickets in a Test to win. S. Africa on the other hand on average convert 1-2 half chances to wickets per innings. So even if the bowling is on equal terms, where Pakistan will lose games is in fielding. Some of the close games Pakistan has lost over the last 2-3 years is where they missed catches, runouts, stumpings. Sydney 2010 comes to mind or Hobart 2010 where Ponting went on to score 200+ after being dropped on 0. Tendulkar scored 85 in WC 11 SF and was dropped 4 times. Players like Amla, Kallis, Smith, and AB will make you pay dearly when you give them a life or two or three. Pakistan badly needs a fielding coach.

  • Toescrusher on January 31, 2013, 17:21 GMT

    Loosing Taufeeq is not a big lose and getting Farhat is not a big gain. Calling Farhat means touring management is under pressure and they ran out of idea. Since too many chances were given to Farhat and this time cricket fans will suffer watching him again? On merit Ahmed Shezad and Kamran Akmal qualify for the opening position if not then some one new should have been a better use of this tour and for the future investment for grooming the opener. Traditionally great Pakistani batsmen came from Karachi; for scoring 300 plus runs in the second inning PCB needs to start supporting and giving more chances to batsmen from Karachi - it is important to mention here that batsman from Lahore and its vicinity are great for the shorter of the game.

  • Captainman on January 31, 2013, 16:46 GMT

    Pakistan will get annihilated by South Africa no chance good luck!!!

  • Sinhaya on January 31, 2013, 16:19 GMT

    @ejsiddiqui, yes since that Pak SA series in UAE in 2010, Pakistan only lost one test match and that in Sri Lanka due to atrocious umpiring. I feel Pakistani batting though improved still can be the root cause should they lose. Anyway, I am supporting Pakistan.

  • Desihungama on January 31, 2013, 15:34 GMT

    The Wanderers outfield is just as fast as SAF bowlers so expect some runs from Pakistan. I like to see what happens when Steyn, Morkel and other bowling plans do not go as expected. If you bowl wayward at Wanderers, you are in to leak runs. I do know this will be a cracker of a series and will test the grit of Misbah's men. My eyes are on Azhar Ali. He may be going through a rough patch but if he succeeds and Pakistan loses, I won't be so much worried as their future will be in good hands. Of course a win for Pakistan will send some shock waves around cricketing world. Good luck to both teams.

  • Sinhaya on January 31, 2013, 1:02 GMT

    In test cricket the following are the facts. Bowlers win matches, batsmen can put you in a winning position but they can lose matches with one horrible session. Pakistan has the bowling attack to win tests but their batting is the weak link. The series will be decided by how the Pakistani batsmen tackle the top class SA bowling barrage. Good luck Pakistan.

    Pakistan are unpredictable as shown always. I hardly see them draw test matches as should they win, they do it by day 4 as shown by their test wins against England in UAE and also their test wins in England in 2010 against England and Australia which was registered by day 4. I guess the Pakistani batsmens lack of tendency to last 5 sessions is the reason that the games does not go on till day 5 when Pakistan play.

  • Blal on January 31, 2013, 0:29 GMT

    I think Pakistan is going to miss Mohd Yousuf in South Africa. Along with Younis and Misbah, he would have given the Pak middle order the strength and experience that it appears to be lacking now, specially against a pace-battery that is number one in the world and playing in their own back yard. In my opinion, Pakistani 11 for the first test should have read like this:

    Hafeez, Jamshed, Azhar, Yousuf, Younis, Misbah, Sarfraz, Gul, Junaid, Ajmal, Irfan

    Hoping to be proved wrong, I would say that in the final analysis Pakistan is going to miss Mohd Yousuf.

    @gsingh7: Sky won't fall if Pakistan loses the series 3-0 as it did not fall when India lost 4-0 twice in their last tours abroad even though batting wasn't their Achilles' heel! And if I am not wrong India lost home series against the English team as well, while Pakistan beat the same English team 3-0.

  • SK14 on January 31, 2013, 23:14 GMT

    Funny I see more Indian fans over here then SA fans, I guess we really did hit them hard in our previous tour. Look SA is one heck of a team, they have won in both ENG and AUS this year, their form is absolutely formidable. At this point in time I don't think any team in the world can beat SA, home or away. I just hope Pakistan put up a good fight and challenge this formidable SA side. A victory over here will be 100x better then any victory over India :)

  • ImpartialExpert on January 31, 2013, 20:52 GMT

    Hoping for a good match. Pakistani batsmen should not put too much pressure on themselves and should initially aim for 250. Their bowling lineup is strong enough to put any opposition under pressure. One thing to note for Pakistani bowlers is that it's not enough to get 5 or 6 wickets cheaply as our Indian bowlers found out during our recent overseas tours. It's important not to leak too many runs bowling to tailenders. This is where Ajmal and Irfan can come in. If they have planned something even for the tailenders then the contest could well be a close one.

  • FighterKallis on January 31, 2013, 20:09 GMT

    After Yousuf there is a vacant position to be filled.Younis is good, but jamshed, shafiq,they haven't played much. Test cricket is different from Odi. hafeez, Irfan are not test stuff. Ajmal is overrated player who has not much left in him . he is already 35. one bad tour he will be out of the team. In tests you have to play as a team like the windies of 80's australians of the 90's.Now southafrica have settled as a team and the have only one or two changes but for pakis they do not know where to put whom. They can dominate a session of the day but they can't come even closer. sorry friends watch out my words.This is a one sided contest. biff and his team is going to humiliate this overrated pakis. Hail the king kallis and the prince amla.

  • mkazmi on January 31, 2013, 17:26 GMT

    One thing to note is the fielding will be the key here. Pakistan on average drop 4-5 catches per innings. They need to take 14-15 wickets per innings and close to 30 wickets in a Test to win. S. Africa on the other hand on average convert 1-2 half chances to wickets per innings. So even if the bowling is on equal terms, where Pakistan will lose games is in fielding. Some of the close games Pakistan has lost over the last 2-3 years is where they missed catches, runouts, stumpings. Sydney 2010 comes to mind or Hobart 2010 where Ponting went on to score 200+ after being dropped on 0. Tendulkar scored 85 in WC 11 SF and was dropped 4 times. Players like Amla, Kallis, Smith, and AB will make you pay dearly when you give them a life or two or three. Pakistan badly needs a fielding coach.

  • Toescrusher on January 31, 2013, 17:21 GMT

    Loosing Taufeeq is not a big lose and getting Farhat is not a big gain. Calling Farhat means touring management is under pressure and they ran out of idea. Since too many chances were given to Farhat and this time cricket fans will suffer watching him again? On merit Ahmed Shezad and Kamran Akmal qualify for the opening position if not then some one new should have been a better use of this tour and for the future investment for grooming the opener. Traditionally great Pakistani batsmen came from Karachi; for scoring 300 plus runs in the second inning PCB needs to start supporting and giving more chances to batsmen from Karachi - it is important to mention here that batsman from Lahore and its vicinity are great for the shorter of the game.

  • Captainman on January 31, 2013, 16:46 GMT

    Pakistan will get annihilated by South Africa no chance good luck!!!

  • Sinhaya on January 31, 2013, 16:19 GMT

    @ejsiddiqui, yes since that Pak SA series in UAE in 2010, Pakistan only lost one test match and that in Sri Lanka due to atrocious umpiring. I feel Pakistani batting though improved still can be the root cause should they lose. Anyway, I am supporting Pakistan.

  • Desihungama on January 31, 2013, 15:34 GMT

    The Wanderers outfield is just as fast as SAF bowlers so expect some runs from Pakistan. I like to see what happens when Steyn, Morkel and other bowling plans do not go as expected. If you bowl wayward at Wanderers, you are in to leak runs. I do know this will be a cracker of a series and will test the grit of Misbah's men. My eyes are on Azhar Ali. He may be going through a rough patch but if he succeeds and Pakistan loses, I won't be so much worried as their future will be in good hands. Of course a win for Pakistan will send some shock waves around cricketing world. Good luck to both teams.

  • GraemeSA on January 31, 2013, 15:01 GMT

    @LilianThomson - I'll agree that most of your comment may have merit, but the chase of 161 by Kallis and Prince was one of the toughest days of Test cricket I've had the pleasure of watching. There is no way Pakistan threw that. I checked the scorecard to refresh my memory and Kallis/Prince put on 37 in 26.2 overs before lunch, 40 in the first 15 after and then finally were able to put the foot down. Hoping this series produces more of the same

  • khurramsch on January 31, 2013, 14:53 GMT

    to those who are from across and talking about it, yes paksitan's batting is always their weak link and they dont have super bastmen like india. for you guys paksitans win loss ration in SA is better than that of india having all super batsmen all that period. and yes what difference will it make if pak loose 3-0? india having great names in batting department lost to england and Aus 4-0 recently and the lost to england side at home as well. and india were no1 that time. pakistan is always a weak side. but they will fight.

  • khurramsch on January 31, 2013, 14:50 GMT

    yes true. even without stats pakistan's batting has always been their weak link. but i hope it will be lot closer series than NZ tour to SA. it all comes to batsmen and how pak batsmen do against SA pacers.

  • on January 31, 2013, 11:35 GMT

    Since the spot fixing scandal, which sees Amir, Asif and Butt banned from International Cricket, Pakistan has proved to be more of a consistent unit. A blend of experienced and youth and players are picked on the basis of performances. Stats are always good when you look at them and it can help you analyze but it can't predict how things move and in which direction the series goes.

    Smith is wonderful batsman but you can't totally disregard Hafeez, one of the most consistent Pakistan Batsman. Hashim Amla is certainly best player of this era but his corresponding opponent in Pakistan side is Azhar Ali who will be"Wall" for Pakistan in future.Kallis is big player and best Alrounder world cricket has ever produced is up against Younis Khan, a player for all seasons. Steyn, Morkel and Phillander will certainly receives a solid response from Gul, Junaid and Ajmal. Ajmal is best because he has the ability to spin where other spinners struggle that is why he is world's best.

  • aoun.bbs on January 31, 2013, 10:17 GMT

    No doubt SA is best team and not easy to beat but, Pakistan will give them tough time and this series will not as easy for SA as it was against NZ. Pak openers are in form and middle order has lots of experience with very good avg's. Other hand SA have very fine bowling attack and Pak batting will be tested because SA playing at home. will be a challenging series for both sides, and no looking 3-0 results for SA this time.

  • LillianThomson on January 31, 2013, 8:13 GMT

    The historic SA v Pakistan records are of little relevance, given that every series since 1995 is subject to fixing accusations apart from 2002-3 when Pakistan's best players refused to tour. Even last time, in 2006-7, SA chased down 161 from 39-4 when the now-banned Asif and Kaneria suddenly stopped taking wickets. The past is embarrassing - even the 1995 Test was just a week after the tarnished Mandela Cup finals between the two teams, which were the subject of a matchfixing investigation in Pakistan.

    The key this time is not a statistic - it is the toss of the coin. It is pretty obvious that at all 3 venues the only hope for Pakistan is to bowl first. If they do, the conditions might negate South Africa's batting superiority.

  • rocknrola on January 31, 2013, 6:42 GMT

    Pak has ability to upset any team. They have good bowling attack fast and spin. Their main problem is batting. Pak spin attack is very good. SA' strength is their batting and pace attack. SA's problem is spin attack. They do not have a quality spinner. I think there won't be any draw matches in this series. May be 2-1 will be the outcome.

  • ejsiddiqui on January 31, 2013, 6:37 GMT

    @Sinhaya, the current crop of Pakistan cricketer are not flashy players. Azhar, Younis, Misbah and Asad all are defensive players who don't throw their wickets away. Thats the reason SA could not win against Pak last time. Please note, Pakistan has just lost one match since last SA-Pak series.

  • hafeezhmt on January 31, 2013, 4:23 GMT

    Test cricket what I love the most you can't stop pakistani team Pakistan will win 2-1 this series Inshaallah

  • pratit on January 31, 2013, 2:24 GMT

    On South African pitches and against the best pace attack in the world, batsmen of all visiting teams struggle. So there is a 99% probability Pakistani batsmen won't do well. The thing to see is that if their bowlers can make SA batsmen do worse. And despite all the hype about Irfan, Junaid Khan's swing is what the SA batsmen should look out for.

  • FynbosFan on January 31, 2013, 2:06 GMT

    One minor quibble with the stats. You say: "The narrow difference (1.76) between averages of Pakistan spinners and pace bowlers is bettered only by England, who have a corresponding number of 0.95." In fact, Pakistan's spinners are the only ones who have a better average than their fast bowlers, by 1.76 runs/wkt. BTW, I can't believe Bet365 is offering odds of 3/2 for an SA win and 13/2 for Pak. I suspect it will be a lot closer than that. Maybe those are the odds for the series, not the opening test at the Bullring! I'm almost tempted to have a flutter.

  • omar_choudhary on January 30, 2013, 23:15 GMT

    What the statistics did not go that deep into were matchsaving performances (low strike rates, most dot balls played by batsmen in that period of time etc), which Pakistan easily dominate since 2010. Pakistan is blessed with match winning cricketers in Razzaq, Afridi co. but also have match saving cricketers, who can draw us a match from a difficult position, in the form of our TUK TUK CAPTAIN MISBAH, Azhar Ali, Taufeeq and Asad. Pakistan may even be able to make 0-0 in the series, I would not mind that either.

  • Fezz on January 30, 2013, 21:01 GMT

    GSingh7! It's amazing your comments are in every article relating to Pakistan, and in almost every comment, u have wished 3-0 result for SA. I can understand the pain inside u!! When your own team has lost 8-0 in a row, u r trying to get some solace by seeing Pakistan team lose. Completely understandable! In my realistic view, Pakistan will struggle in the 1st match due to lack of practice on bouncy wicket. But in 2nd and 3rd test, they will come much harder and might win a test. Having said that, full marks to SA board for making things as difficult for Pakistan as possible. Only 1 practice match, and that is on a completely different pitch than that of the first test. And secondly, Pakistan arrived in Johannesburg only 2 days before the 1st test, so not much time for practice there either. I hope Pakistan team make a mess of all their planning !!

  • sirvivfan on January 30, 2013, 20:17 GMT

    South Africa clearly the favourites, here with out doubt. Best chance is for Pak to bowl first.

  • suniljoseph on January 30, 2013, 20:11 GMT

    Since we are the most unpredictable team in the world. So dont take us lightly. Pakistan can do anything when it is their day. So no fear from Steyn and Co. Against team like us He could be the most dangerous and on the same side Steyn could be the most ineffective. So just wait for Friday and lets see what happens.

  • i-s-r-a-r on January 30, 2013, 19:55 GMT

    Some goods stats there. Good to see how dominating saffers middle order has been with the likes of amla kallis and devilliers

  • gsingh7 on January 30, 2013, 19:47 GMT

    batting has been their achiles heel forever, just want styen and co to exploit it to win all 3 matches ,come on sa

  • Jingoism on January 30, 2013, 19:20 GMT

    Stats doesn't matter when your opponent is Pakistan as they are the most unpredictable team in world cricket.

  • Jingoism on January 30, 2013, 19:20 GMT

    Stats doesn't matter when your opponent is Pakistan as they are the most unpredictable team in world cricket.

  • gsingh7 on January 30, 2013, 19:47 GMT

    batting has been their achiles heel forever, just want styen and co to exploit it to win all 3 matches ,come on sa

  • i-s-r-a-r on January 30, 2013, 19:55 GMT

    Some goods stats there. Good to see how dominating saffers middle order has been with the likes of amla kallis and devilliers

  • suniljoseph on January 30, 2013, 20:11 GMT

    Since we are the most unpredictable team in the world. So dont take us lightly. Pakistan can do anything when it is their day. So no fear from Steyn and Co. Against team like us He could be the most dangerous and on the same side Steyn could be the most ineffective. So just wait for Friday and lets see what happens.

  • sirvivfan on January 30, 2013, 20:17 GMT

    South Africa clearly the favourites, here with out doubt. Best chance is for Pak to bowl first.

  • Fezz on January 30, 2013, 21:01 GMT

    GSingh7! It's amazing your comments are in every article relating to Pakistan, and in almost every comment, u have wished 3-0 result for SA. I can understand the pain inside u!! When your own team has lost 8-0 in a row, u r trying to get some solace by seeing Pakistan team lose. Completely understandable! In my realistic view, Pakistan will struggle in the 1st match due to lack of practice on bouncy wicket. But in 2nd and 3rd test, they will come much harder and might win a test. Having said that, full marks to SA board for making things as difficult for Pakistan as possible. Only 1 practice match, and that is on a completely different pitch than that of the first test. And secondly, Pakistan arrived in Johannesburg only 2 days before the 1st test, so not much time for practice there either. I hope Pakistan team make a mess of all their planning !!

  • omar_choudhary on January 30, 2013, 23:15 GMT

    What the statistics did not go that deep into were matchsaving performances (low strike rates, most dot balls played by batsmen in that period of time etc), which Pakistan easily dominate since 2010. Pakistan is blessed with match winning cricketers in Razzaq, Afridi co. but also have match saving cricketers, who can draw us a match from a difficult position, in the form of our TUK TUK CAPTAIN MISBAH, Azhar Ali, Taufeeq and Asad. Pakistan may even be able to make 0-0 in the series, I would not mind that either.

  • FynbosFan on January 31, 2013, 2:06 GMT

    One minor quibble with the stats. You say: "The narrow difference (1.76) between averages of Pakistan spinners and pace bowlers is bettered only by England, who have a corresponding number of 0.95." In fact, Pakistan's spinners are the only ones who have a better average than their fast bowlers, by 1.76 runs/wkt. BTW, I can't believe Bet365 is offering odds of 3/2 for an SA win and 13/2 for Pak. I suspect it will be a lot closer than that. Maybe those are the odds for the series, not the opening test at the Bullring! I'm almost tempted to have a flutter.

  • pratit on January 31, 2013, 2:24 GMT

    On South African pitches and against the best pace attack in the world, batsmen of all visiting teams struggle. So there is a 99% probability Pakistani batsmen won't do well. The thing to see is that if their bowlers can make SA batsmen do worse. And despite all the hype about Irfan, Junaid Khan's swing is what the SA batsmen should look out for.

  • hafeezhmt on January 31, 2013, 4:23 GMT

    Test cricket what I love the most you can't stop pakistani team Pakistan will win 2-1 this series Inshaallah