Pakistan in South Africa 2012-13 January 21, 2013

Pakistan attack can challenge South Africa


There are some places Pakistan have not played cricket in for even longer than their home country. South Africa is one of them.

Having last played a Test here in 2007, India is the only other place Pakistan have not featured in whites for the last six years although they played a one-day series in India recently. South Africa remains an uncharted territory for much of the squad. It has been so infrequently visited that none of the current Test bowling attack have played a Test in the country.

They have missed out. Known for their pace and bounce, South African surfaces are among the favourites of quicks the world over and Pakistan's pack cannot wait to get stuck in. "Junaid Khan would love to bowl in these conditions and Mohammed Irfan will do well if he can put the ball in the right areas," Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, said after arriving in Johannesburg.

The closest Junaid has got to South Africa is its neighbour, Zimbabwe, where he made his debut in September 2011. He played second fiddle to Aizaz Cheema in that match but has since overtaken Cheema with three five-wicket hauls from eight matches. Being a left-armer he may have half an eye on Graeme Smith with the South Africa captain having been susceptible to many southpaws over the years.

At 7' 1", Irfan had caught the eye of the South African media well before Pakistan's arrival in the country. Knowing the kind of bounce Morne Morkel can extract from surfaces, the hype around what someone eight inches taller may be able to do has grown.

So has the expectation over how South Africa's batsmen will deal with Saeed Ajmal. They have seen him once before, in a Test in 2010 in Dubai when he took three wickets but he has since developed into the magician that ran circles around the then No.1 ranked England. Facing Ajmal will be South Africa's first significant test against spin since becoming the No. 1 team.

Misbah suspects that Ajmal will also enjoy what South Africa has to offer. "Saeed Ajmal is the world's top spinner and in these conditions you get turn and bounce especially on the fourth and fifth days," he said.

While the bowlers are looking forward to assistance, the batsmen are readying themselves for a much sterner examination. South Africa is regarded as one of the toughest places to score runs, especially for the top-order. Of Pakistan's line-up, Taufeeq Umar, Misbah, Younis Khan and Mohammed Hafeez have all batted in South Africa before but the younger players such as Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali and Nasir Jamshed will have their first taste of these conditions.

The pace of the pitches will take some getting used to. Shafiq has played in New Zealand, West Indies and the subcontinent while Jamshed, who starred in the one-dayers against India, has yet to make his Test debut. With limited touring opportunities because of their schedule, Misbah conceded that preparations have not been ideal although they have made the best of what they have.

"We have to bat well. Whenever we go abroad, we try to practice against bounce and pace. We use different tactics for that and we make sure we get ready before the Test matches," he said. "It's really difficult when you are not playing a format on a regular basis. You really have to work hard. But that's how it is. We are not playing more Test matches. But we have to adjust because we are professionals."

Dav Whatmore, Pakistan's coach, suggested batting could be rewarding for those who employ some patience. "It can be difficult, because of the general consistency of the slightly higher bounce and the pace might be more than normal," he said. "But if you get over that they're pretty good batting conditions as well, a bit like Australia. Our young guys who get through that will be in for good times."

Pakistan will play a three-day warm-up match against a fairly strong South African Invitation XI in East London where the surface is traditionally sluggish. That could be South Africa's way of softening the batsman up especially as historically the hosts have prepared seamer-friendly pitches against subcontinent sides and tried to scare their batsmen out. They may be wary of trying the same thing this time because Pakistan have a good attack of their own.

While pre-series talk will rage about how competitive a less "unpredictable," as Smith called them, Pakistan will be against South Africa, there is also an undercurrent of a campaign running through the visitors' camp. It is both a drive to show off their consistency and resolve and to talk openly about promoting the return of cricket to their home.

"Every stadium was full at the T20 tournament in Pakistan. There were no concerns and everyone enjoyed the game," Misbah said. "Ten of the players in the current Test side played in the final and there were no issues. Pakistan is such a big cricketing nation and the world really has to think about bringing cricket back there. Stadiums are full and nothing is happening."

The former ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat, who is a South African, has been doing some consultative work for the PCB on the matter as well.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Harmon on January 24, 2013, 22:27 GMT

    @Solid_Snake: It is a fact known world over that when Ind play to its potential they thrash Pak black and blue. Not for nothing is Ind World Champion And World #1 in ODIs. You won a mere 2 matches and start dancing about it - good for you. It is clear to anyone that Ind were not performing as per their abilities for a while due to an overkill of cricket and too much shifting between diff formats. Once they got its hang they were back to their top self and it took them no time to become World #1, mind you.

    If I was a Pak fan I would be more worried about how my batting did in the short series. But for Jamshed Pak could have easily lot the series, and we all know Jamshed is not the most talented player in the world and will soon get exposed by Steyn & co in SA. What will Pak do then?

    I really really think that we might see for the first time ever a test team being all out for a single digit score. We saw Aus 21/9 & NZ 45/10. Guess Pak will beat both these easily.... :-p

    Poor Junaid.

  • Jordan on January 24, 2013, 20:32 GMT

    I think the Pakistan tour of South Africa will end somewhat similar to the NZ tour. Destroyed in the tests because of a weak batting line-up and fighting wins in the t20 and ODI's.

    Pakistan and NZ seem to be similar teams, not in the way they play as such, but in the way the cricket is run. Bowling isn't shown up as much by being inconsistent, but it shows in the batting strength to no end. South Africa have a way of showing how inconsistent you really are

  • Harmon on January 24, 2013, 20:02 GMT

    The Pakistani fans as usual misunderstand the point and then make funny comments one after the other.

    No one from Ind is claiming that Bhuvnesh Kumar is a Great Bowler or World's Best bowler or will go on to make grt records in the future.

    It is the Pak fans who are saying such things for Junaid Khan. That man did well in a tiny series vs tired batsmen and there you start on him being another great Pak bowler. Thus I got to ask what happened to your great bowlers of the past? Where are Wahab Riaz, Mohd Sami, Rana Naved & Sohail Tanvir? You ppl had said the same thing for these bowlers too - what have they done since then?

    Ind fans don't go gaga over our fresh players on the basis of 2-3 matches. We've seen how Irfan went down after grt promise initially. Funny that Pak fans say that Ind fans are making tall claims about Bhuvnesh Kumar when in fact we've made none.

    And I am waiting to see Pak's score vs Steyn/Morkel/Philander in Tests when they were 12/3 vs a debutant in T20. Lol.

  • Yasir on January 24, 2013, 19:18 GMT

    @Harmony->& there are many ways to put the series result..The main thing is that team India was about to get whitewashed.They merely escaped it.But no Indian fans just wont accept this humiliation.& all they came up with anther angle ie Pak happened to win just 1 more game than India'..Lol this joke made my day..

    PS->The fielding of Team India in final ODI,It is telling some other story.I dont think there was any sign of such excuses..We were tired.IS this the best excuse you came up with.What's the job of a player?He is there in the team to play.It's not like you play cricket everyday. Off course there is a gap.If players starts to lose & then give such excuses, then i guess they are not players at all..Team India plays halfheartedly against Pak only.They were so tired to play against Pakistan.But suddenly they drank some Energy Drinks & went on head to head against England & started winning again.Excuse Busted :P

  • Hassaan on January 24, 2013, 18:19 GMT

    I can see 2-1 in favor of Pakistan...

  • Mohabatullah on January 24, 2013, 17:53 GMT

    I don,t think that PAK will win one of the matches because SA has superb batting and bowling line up and also their fielding is very strong, but PAK only depends on bowling , which won't be enough to defeat world's number 1 test cricketers. PAK will not be able to score over 200.

  • mazen on January 24, 2013, 14:46 GMT

    solid_snake... Bro let Harmony111 lives in the delusion that B.kumar with the AVG pace of 127 km/h will become his new star. The reality is that Muhammed sami and Rana naveed are much better bowler than over rated Indian bowlers. Had Muhammed sami played for India, I'm sure India would not even drop him from Indian side. Harmony111 only remembers B. kumar's wicket of Hafeez but oblivious of the fact that what Junaid did to Over rated Indian batsmen. I think he forgot how Junaid bowled Indian first three batsmen in the first ODI. They are happy to beat England's b side and claim to be number 1 side.

  • Yasir on January 24, 2013, 13:20 GMT

    @Harmony111->Lol Pakistan team is famous for making a no good new bowler into a hero.Pick up any match & you will know.All thanks to the batting of ours.What did that Hero of yours B.Kumar did against England?..If he is so good in moving the ball,what happened to him suddenly?Similarly we made other heroes as well like him which are no where to be seen in the Cricketing world.Irfan Pathan..Where is he.Same fate is waiting for this B.Kumar.You like to mention 12/3 of a T20 match.But you dont wanna mention a World Champ 29/5 in their own turf & on top of that against a Rookie Junaid who joined the team after a long time.Give credit to Misbah who dropped the catch or else World Champ would have been badly thrashed.Well they got thrashed anyways despite of that drop catch.You fans can keep on dreaming about that spell of B.Kumar.If he was so good in toying then what good is he if India still lost the series & merely escaped whitewash :P

  • Cricket on January 24, 2013, 9:19 GMT

    Poor Sarfraz, finally when he got his opportunity in the Test matches, he is faced with one the best bowling sides in very hostile conditions. The conditions in SA are going to favor pace bowling and Styen, Morkel & Philander are going to be at their menancing best.

    But having said that I expect Sarfraz to do reasonably well, especially the assurance of getting to play three tests in a row will help him mentally. He has a batting average of 42 in first class matches, that is as good as a specialist batsman. He has the best batting average among all wicket keepers in Pakistan.


  • Cricket on January 24, 2013, 9:03 GMT

    In the first test I expect the follwoing eleven to play.

    1) Hafeez, 2) Jamshed, 3) A.Ali, 4) Y.Khan, 5) Misbah, 6) A.Shafiq, 7) Sarfraz, 8) U.Gul, 9) S.Ajmal, 10) Junaid, 11) M.Irfan