South Africa v Pakistan, 1st Test, Johannesburg

Pakistan aim to spoil Smith's party

The Preview by Andrew McGlashan

January 31, 2013

Comments: 117 | Text size: A | A

Match facts

February 1-5, 2013
Start time 10.30 (0830 GMT)


Nasir Jamshed smashes one for a six, Australia v Pakistan, Super Eights, World Twenty20 2012, Colombo, October 2, 2012
Nasir Jamshed is set to make his Test debut in the Bullring © AFP
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South Africa have consolidated their No. 1 ranking since claiming the spot against England, and while their series victory over New Zealand was a formality, it showed the hunger and ruthlessness not to let the title slip away as easily as it had from other teams over the last two years.

This series against Pakistan should require them to lift their game again although the visitors have not played a Test for six months. South Africa start as favourites, and rightly so, but there is enough firepower in Pakistan's attack to cause some difficult moments.

It will be down to the batsmen to ensure there are enough runs on the board to make it count. The bounce provided at venues such as the Wanderers will test the back-foot technique of the young and older players alike; for Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali and Nasir Jamshed it is their first experience of South Africa.

Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel pose as a tough a challenge as there is. Swing, seam and bounce. South Africa's Test unit is now very settled, the decision to stick with AB de Villiers as wicketkeeper allowing them added security of a specialist batsman at No. 7. Dean Elgar's hundred against New Zealand means, barring injury, there will be no urge to change in this series.

The match will also be dominated by South Africa marking Smith's 100 Test as captain (99 for his country and one for the World XI). He has not always been a favourite of the fans, although opinions have started to sway in recent months. Winning helps that. It will be a surprise if South Africa do not add another series trophy, but they will have to work for it.

Form guide

(Most recent first)

South Africa WWWDD
Pakistan DDLWW

In the spotlight

Apart from a tricky Test in Brisbane, Vernon Philander has not stopped taking wickets. Only injury stopped him from another likely bagful in the second Test against New Zealand. The only issue for him coming into this game is his lack of bowling over the last couple of weeks, but he has a simple action and simple philosophy, which should mean he could slot straight back into the groove.

Junaid Khan bowled beautifully against India in the one-day series a few weeks ago and if he can transfer that form into red-ball cricket he will be a major threat. An early target will be Graeme Smith, who has a tendency to play across his front pad and was troubled a little by New Zealand's left-armers, and Junaid can test the right handers on both the outside and inside edge. If reverse swing becomes a factor, Junaid will find it.

Team news

South Africa will toy with the idea of an all-pace attack, although it backfired on them the last time they went that way, in Brisbane, and much of the grass had been shaved off by Thursday. Pakistan's batsmen have also had problems against left-arm spin in the past, which favours Robin Peterson. The rest of the XI looks as expected, with Philander fully recovered from the hamstring strain that kept him out of the second Test against New Zealand in mid-January.

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

Pakistan could have two debutants if both Nasir Jamshed and Mohammed Irfan play. Jamshed is a certainty after Taufeeq Umar was ruled out of the tour with a stress fracture of his shin. Temptation to give Irfan his maiden run will be huge but the more than two metre tall bowler may have to wait his turn if Pakistan opt for either Tanvir Ahmed or Rahat Ali.

Pakistan: (probable) 1 Mohammed Hafeez, 2 Nasir Jamshed, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Asad Shafiq, 7 Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), 8 Umar Gul, 9 Saeed Ajmal, 10 Junaid Khan, 11 Mohammed Irfan/Tanvir Ahmed

Pitch and conditions

Having not hosted a Test since November 2011, the Wanderers will be itching to show off its best side. A belter of a strip has been prepared. Afternoon thunder showers are commonplace in Johannesburg in summer and are forecast for every day of the match but they are not likely to interrupt play too severely. The surface changed from green to white-ish in the days leading into the contest and should be typical of the ground.

Stats and trivia

  • Hashim Amla is one rating point behind Michael Clarke on the ICC's Test batting rankings and has the opportunity to overtake the Australian captain in this series.

  • The last time South Africa played a Test at the Wanderers in November 2011, they lost to Australia.

  • The only way South Africa can lose the No.1 Test ranking is if Pakistan beat them 3-0 in this series.

  • Pakistan have not visited South Africa since 2007-08, when they lost a competitive series 2-1.

Quotes

"It has been a bit difficult to separate my preparation from the fanfare of the 100th captaincy but there is a maturity in the group and I expect the team to come out firing."
Graeme Smith

"This is the biggest challenge we have had for two and half years but it is a good chance for us to show we have improved."
Misbah-ul-Haq

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by AJ_Malik on (February 1, 2013, 16:30 GMT)

@Posted by sannthu_ckt on (February 01 2013, 08:27 AM GMT)

*Smiles*. Well, there's no denying to the fact that India and Pakistan have been arch rivals and will remain so for a long time, maybe forever. So yea, we do compete with each other everywhere indirectly, and there's no harm in it if it is to improve the quality. The objective should be to bring oneself up instead of pulling the other down.

I read some comments from Indian cricket fans also which clearly shows their interest in what may be considered as one of the most interesting contest in progress currently and I appreciate their wishing well to Pakistan team.

Posted by tests_the_best on (February 1, 2013, 15:13 GMT)

@shovwar agree with the analysis that the key is pak batting against sa bowling. though I feel sa would take the first test, pak's best chance is in the 2nd and then the 3rd is a toss-up.

Posted by sannthu_ckt on (February 1, 2013, 8:27 GMT)

@AJ_Malik ..You cant have comment on a article without bringing in India? can you? BTW all the best to both the teams. Pak can clearly pose a tuff challenge to the Proteas, just they need to be cautious in their batting, Misbah and Jamshed can do it

Posted by Solid_Snake on (February 1, 2013, 8:08 GMT)

SA won the toss & decided to Bat first... Quiet surprising to hear that Misbah also wanted to Bat first..Lets see how the match progresses

Posted by spiritwithin on (February 1, 2013, 8:00 GMT)

@Solid_Snake.."""@Cricinfo->I would like to thank the Mods to clear our some of the comments based on pure hatred & Jealousy"""..exactly the same thing which u do in any article related to india's match.....now coming to main topic,this series will be decided by Pak's batting performance,if their batsman can stand up then they can win the series considering the good bowling attack,i want to see how Amla plays Junaid and Ajmal,it will be mouth watering contest..also Naser Jamshed against Steyn will be good to see...let the game begin

Posted by RD_TEST_CRIC_FOREVER on (February 1, 2013, 7:55 GMT)

Being a TEST lover........ its always amazing to watch cricket in south africa ...... grass banks beers....... and hardcore cricket.........

With SA being as strong as ever....... and pakistan getting stronger day by day....... it will be true mouth watering contest........

With Steyn morkel philander ajmal junaid irfan ........... i m quite sure it will be bowler dominant series.......

and yeah such condition can bring best out of best...... dying to watch kallis amla class........ and AB......... hes my all time favorite player.........

And Smith heartly congratulation for ur 100th test as captain..... BEST OF LUCK to both teams........ CHEERS to CRICKET!!!!!!!!

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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