Pakistan in South Africa 2012-13 January 29, 2013

SA bowlers pose tough challenge to Pakistan


To beat South Africa, opposition teams need to hone in on one thing: the world No.1 side's bowlers.

"The big battle between any team coming up against the current South African one will be between their batsmen against the South African bowlers," Vincent Barnes, manager of the high performance centre, who was in charge of the South African Invitation side that played against the touring Pakistanis, told ESPNCricinfo. "If you can tame the bowlers, you can get close but if you can't, you will get a hiding."

On the evidence of the tour match, which few read into, Pakistan's batsmen have some work to do. Nasir Jamshed and Mohammad Hafeez did well in both innings but of the middle order only Misbah-ul-Haq scored a half-century.

"It looked like they were just trying to occupy the crease and then some of them got good balls and got out," Barnes said. "We can't judge too much on that. Guys like Azhar Ali and Younis Khan have scored big runs in the past. Jamshed looks like a guy whose natural game is to play his shots and Hafeez is a quality player who scores both sides of the wicket."

While the batsmen will be the ones under scrutiny, some may see the real contest as a battle between bowling attacks as Pakistan's has a lot to offer. Barnes regards Umar Gul as their "best bowler who is very skilful" and Saeed Ajmal as the "key factor" to their chances of success.

He also saw first-hand the two bowlers who will be relatively unknown quantities to South Africa - Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan. Left-armer Junaid swings the ball both ways while Irfan, at more than two metres tall, is expected to extract steep bounce. "Junaid drifted in an out a bit. He had some good spells and some average ones," Barnes said. "Irfan is definitely a massive presence. Bounce will be his strength but he struggled with his lengths and didn't seem to swing the ball much."

Irfan's Test debut is the most widely talked about point in the lead up to the series. While Jacques Kallis joked that some of the South African bowlers will go to practice on stilts, he does not actually seem too fazed about the prospect of facing him.

"Morne Morkel is not too much shorter than that so we are used to facing quite a bit of bounce. It will be slightly different but nothing we haven't seen before," he said. "There is so much video analysis around. I suppose it takes a few balls to get used to facing them but once you've seen them on video, you get an idea." Morkel, at around 1.9 metres tall, has been known to prosper on the more lively pitches on the Highveld and Irfan will hope to do the same in the Tests at Johannesburg and Centurion.

But it is not bounce or swing that Hashim Amla thinks will make the difference in the series. Precision and discipline are the traits he rates highest in his home conditions. "I've always felt that in South African conditions, it's usually the guys that are not necessarily quick but quite accurate who do well. Vernon is an example of that," he said.

"I think they've got a good bowling attack and what helps the sub-continent teams is that they usually bowl on flat tracks. So when they do come to a wicket that does assist them they have the discipline."

Local conditions are also what Kallis hopes will give South Africa's bowlers the upperhand in the contest between the pace packs. "They've got some good quality batters that have been around a long time but what we have in our favour is that they are not used to our conditions. They will be tested with the short ball," he warned. Other sub-continent teams have been told the same but Pakistan are the team that have prospered most. They will hope to continue that run.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • imran on January 31, 2013, 13:11 GMT seems that d wounds of 3-0 whitewash are yet to heal n for your info. ICC have cleared ajmal n that's what matters not what you people think of him

  • Dummy4 on January 31, 2013, 11:49 GMT

    We should simply respect both the teams. SA is undoubtedly the No. 1 test team in world, Pakistan have not performed badly either in recent past, provided that they have not played a lot of test matches and did not play at all on their home grounds since 2009. Now SA has upper hand in the series because they are playing in their home condition plus they have the best pace attack in world. However, one should not under estimate the Pakistani, relatively younger pace attack, as well as the "Kings of Spin". One thing is for sure that nobody can ever predict Pakistan's performance.

    Well, being a Pakistani I'll pray for Pakistan to win but no matter who wins, lets hope for fair play and some good cricket.

  • hibbatur on January 31, 2013, 11:10 GMT

    The crux of the matter is if Pakistan batsman played SA bowlers well then a good contest is possible, else it wont go beyond 3 days..

  • jhg on January 31, 2013, 9:15 GMT

    Pakistan A team announced :- Sharjeel Khan, Ahmad Shahzad, Rameej Raja Jr, Imam-ul-haq, Umar Amin, Hammad Azam, Raza Hassan, S. Afridi, Zia-ul-haq, Anwar Ali, Jamal Anwar, Ali Waqas, Wahab Reyaz, Usman Qadir, Asad Ali.....looks a solid side with good batsmen and agressive bowlers....

  • Dummy4 on January 31, 2013, 6:41 GMT

    @ Abdullah Khan Hasanzai please check your facts. Since 2006 sa have not lost a series on foreign soil. SA have proofed that they are better than the rest of the world. We don't talk about a series win here and there. Tomorrow it starts. the talking is over. time to put your hand up and show who is the best.

  • Jawad on January 31, 2013, 6:32 GMT

    I am confident that Pakistani bowlers will do well in SA. While some people think that Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan lack pace, I do not see this to be true. There are some recent-sore-losers here that will have you think that Pakistan's fast bowlers need more pace. I will let the speed gun do the talking.

  • Casper on January 31, 2013, 6:00 GMT

    Well I am a bit confused here .. b4 the SA vs England series they said England will win 3 - 0 because SA were not good enough ... and after the series they said SA were playing a sub-standard English side and then everybody shouted - wait for Australia - they will take their rightful place at being number 1 back from SA (even went so far as suggesting SA need only to arrive on Australia soil and hand back the mace) - They could not win against a SA team that were plagued by injuries yet every1 bemoans the Perth match where SA comprehensively won the match, saying SA did not deserve that match. Fact is .. SA won against England and Australia they beat the best in their own backyards- twice - if you want to be the best you better beat the best or nobody will take note of you ... If Pakistan want to beat SA in SA good luck SA is currently the best and to be the best Pakistan will need to beat the best - forget about past matches the time is NOW this series SA VS PAK there will be a result

  • Dummy4 on January 31, 2013, 0:54 GMT

    i can only laugh at the comments of some S. African fans. I can see the glimpse of English fan before they came to Dubai in them. Yes the conditions are different, make no mistake that South Africa will be tested. What happened to this South African attack when they went to Australia?? they were taken for 500+ runs twice which proves that they are only good at home tourghs similar to India. So i won't consider Africa a world class team until they come out of their country and play abroad and win series, Yes its a challenge from me. Final thought --> Make no mistake, Africa will be tested. Good luck Pakistan.

  • Usman on January 30, 2013, 22:01 GMT

    Its going to be an interesting contest. In all fairness its Pakistan Batting V South Africa's bowling. Have no quarrels over bowling, just the selection. Would rather go with Tanvir and Rahat ahead of Gul and Irfan unless he can be fit.

  • j on January 30, 2013, 21:54 GMT

    I think it's about time that bowlers with suspect actions should be made to wear sensors on them during the game, to put to rest highly truthful criticism of a bowler with a suspicious bowling action. Pakistan should agree to this.