South Africa v Pakistan, 1st Test, Johannesburg January 31, 2013

Pakistan aim to spoil Smith's party

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Match facts

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

Big picture

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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!!!!!!!!

  • Harmony111 on February 1, 2013, 7:51 GMT

    The audacity of some Pak fans here is appalling and yet appealing. It appeals so much to me that one evening I would like to sit with them for tea/snacks/beer and do a study of their brains just like Dr. Mortimer wanted to do to Sherlock Holmes. I mean, just what do these fans think of their team? Supporting your team or being zealous about it is one thing but I see some Pak fans here (& elsewhere) using very nasty language for SA team/players. Some say Amla is hype, Kallis is too old now, ABD is a joke, Steyn is over-rated, Philander is good only in 1st 10 overs. And they talk of their Juanid/Irfan as if they are inter-galactic champions. Btw, Irfan is yet to play a test I guess & Junaid is promising but hardly a GREAT as of now.

    Do these Pak fans wake up in morning saying YEAH OUR TEAM IS THE BEST? Do they keep thumping their chest all day and demean others? Why can't they use right facts? Ind were NOT #1 when Pak won 2-1, or do the Pak fans believe in credits via time-travel

  • Cric_Janbaz on February 1, 2013, 7:40 GMT

    No matter who wins or loses but one of most awaited series of the year...

  • SamRoy on February 1, 2013, 7:23 GMT

    Junaid, I think, will be world class with his ability to move the ball both ways at lively pace (85 mph). Gul has become very inconsistent as a test match bowler. Bowls a bad ball or two every over. If SA can play Junaid Khan and Saeed Ajmal decently I think they will win comfortably. Any way, Junaid Khan is nowhere in the league of Amir who I thought was the next great fast bowler after Dale Steyn.

  • bearface on February 1, 2013, 7:01 GMT

    South Africa is much stronger in the batting department and have a stronger pace battery and please dont compare the likes of Umar gul, Junaid Khan to Dale Steyn, Steyn is a brilliant fast bowler his record speaks for itself apart from a few bad performances he has proven himself in all conditions he is the best fast bowler in the world in Test Cricket by miles there is Daylight between him and the Andersons and the Siddles but Junaid has massive potential could be something special but has a long way to go. Amla is also one of the best batsmen in the world atm along with Cook and Clarke Pakistan has some promising young batsmen but SA r much stronger. Pakistan's trumpcard is Ajmal if he delivers he can put pressure on the saffers most of the South Africans barring Amla and De Villiers arent very convincing against spin it might be their only weakness.