South Africa v Pakistan, 1st Test, Johannesburg

Middle-order heavyweights and tall quicks

ESPNcricinfo looks at four confrontations that could have an important bearing on the outcome of the series

Andrew McGlashan and Firdose Moonda

January 31, 2013

Comments: 29 | Text size: A | A

Saeed Ajmal continued to be effective in the second innings, Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 1st Test, Galle, 3rd day, June 24, 2012
Saeed Ajmal will be the highest-quality spinner South Africa have faced for a while © AFP
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Graeme Smith v Junaid Khan

In the build-up to the series most questions have been about Smith in the build-up to his 100th Test as a captain. His challenge is now to focus on what really matters. Juggling his bowlers is the easier part of his job; with bat in hand he could be in for a testing time. Junaid, the left-arm quick, is one of the emerging fast bowlers in the world and is a style of bowler to have trouble Smith in the past. To be fair, Smith is not the only left hander to find left-arm quicks difficult - the usual angles take some adjusting to. In his Test career, Smith has fallen to left-arm pace in 25 of his 187 innings and his average against them 35.56, considerably lower than his career number of 49.28. A warning to Pakistan though: if Smith reaches a hundred, watch out. South Africa have never lost when he has scored a century.

Jacques Kallis v Younis Khan

Two outstanding middle-order batsmen, but they carry different importance for their team. If Kallis fails there is, more often than not, someone to pick up to the slack for South Africa, but for Pakistan to succeed on this tour the feeling is that Younis will have to be successful. That is not to say all rests on him, but Pakistan's batting line-up needs a leader. Neither player has shown any sign of fading in the latter stages of their careers - both maintain averages over 50 - and perhaps Younis has never quite earned the praise for his achievements that he deserves. However, from some in South Africa there is a belief that is true of Kallis, too.

Robin Peterson v Saeed Ajmal

Some may laugh at the suggestion that this is a contest, after all Peterson is new as the frontline slower bowling option for South Africa while Ajmal would make it into most Test teams in the world. Peterson is best remembered for Brian Lara tearing into him at the Wanderers, Ajmal for his own tearing apart of England. Petersen, from nine Tests, has little over a fifth the wickets that Ajmal from 23 Tests has managed. But South African conditions and roles within teams could even things out. While there will be bounce, there is unlikely to be much turn as the hosts look to negate the doosra, teesra or whatever else Ajmal has up his sleeve. Peterson is not in the side purely as a wicket-taker and he will be expected to do a holding job on occasion but Pakistan's indifferent record against left-arm spin means this could be a big series for him.

Morne Morkel v Mohammad Irfan

What's taller than Morne Morkel? Mohammad Irfan, of course. Morkel's ability to extract bounce, especially on home surfaces, is well-known but in this series there is someone who may do that even more than him. At a towering two metres, Irfan is the already the player most hyped up ahead of the series, with many interested to see what effect his imposing physical presence will have. Although Irfan brings a certain novelty value, it could be his fuller lengths, not his ability to take people's head off that turns this into a contest. Morkel has learnt to adjust to make it more difficult for batsmen to leave him on length and advised Irfan to do the same. For men that tall, pitching the ball up is a tough ask but an important one given the conditions.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by HabeebRaja786 on (February 1, 2013, 7:59 GMT)

I am a great fan of Pakistan.On paper there is hardly any comparison between two sides.SA is a superior side in every aspect of game.Except Saeed Ajmal we do not have a proven champion.Yet this is Pakistan , its my belief they can win or At least give a very tough time to any side in world.

Posted by raj..... on (February 1, 2013, 5:35 GMT)

AB devilliers V/S Mohammed hafeez

Posted by wakaPAK on (February 1, 2013, 4:57 GMT)

@ReverseSwingMaster , Lol, you just woke up from a horrible dream I guess; most of SA fans here are quite balanced and SA crowd is the best I have seen in the world; I'd have loved for them to underestimate us but they are not which is worrying..

Posted by uncanny on (February 1, 2013, 4:51 GMT)

no one talking about steyn vs gul, both linchpin of their bowling attack.....experienced, well adapted to all conditions......both can get some runs lower down the order.....and lead the bowling attack

Posted by ms_cricketer on (February 1, 2013, 1:45 GMT)

@Suraj Don In realistic terms, you can't really expect pakistan to snatch a shock series win. On pure figures, south africa has a better bowling attack and batting lineup. Amla and Kallis are class acts, not only in SA but all over the world. Pakistan batting is brittle barring experience players in the middle order. Pakistan need to seriously assess the conditions, and realize that SA is not fazed with their quicks, as they are playing at home. The bowling on the other hand is a bit more equal, with south africa having an edge. I see pakistans spin being rendered useless on SA pitches. I can see Irfan being a monumental flop with his lack of experience, but junaid will surprise as he is not only quick but also accurate. The biggest battle won't be of skill or talent, as both teams possess it in large amounts. The real test is of patience and discipline which SA have, but do Pakistan? That is the real test.

Posted by shovwar on (February 1, 2013, 1:18 GMT)

Pakistan has the ability to hand a shock defeat to SA in one of these tests. But I think If everything go as usual than it could be 2-1 to SA. The worst result i fear could be 1-1 but hopefully not. We SAFFERS didn say it would be 3-0. But i ll take it if they deliver.

Posted by Surajdon9 on (January 31, 2013, 23:36 GMT)

dON9 Prediction

First and foremost I think this will be a classic series with it almost impossible to pick a winner

On the one hand, you have a South African Team that is hard to get a grasp on with them being Super Human in England followed by being very average for the most in Australia

Followed by partaking in a farcical series against a New Zealand Team that was the standard of a Kaapstad under 15's girls side

Going up against a Pakistan side that most are choosing to doubt without realising that they are a very accomplished Team on the rise

I believe in them, and think there is plenty of improvement in them as well

Improvement that will be seen here and lead them to a shock series win

2/1 to Pakistan

Posted by Surajdon9 on (January 31, 2013, 23:29 GMT)

Jacques Kallis has played more matches than any other South African against Pakistan. He's scored 1,472 runs in 15 games at an average of 66.90 against the subcontinent's dark horses, while skipper Graeme Smith is second on that list with 11 matches and 849 runs at an average of 44.68. Younis Khan is Pakistan's leading scorer against South Africa, with nine matches and 750 runs at an average of 46.87. Kallis also has 23 Pakistani scalps in the bag in his 15 matches while Dale Steyn has a staggering 19 in five Tests.

Posted by SK14 on (January 31, 2013, 22:55 GMT)

May the best team win I say. All this speculation of results is just useless talk, enjoy the matches as its just a game. If I was to choose a world cup victory or a test series win in SA, I'd choose victory on SA soil.

Posted by kamiCric on (January 31, 2013, 22:44 GMT)

As a Pakistan cricket supporter, all I want Pakistan team to give their best. South Africa are excellent test side and Pakistan need to play their heart out to give the fans an enjoyable contest.

Posted by Soso_killer on (January 31, 2013, 21:53 GMT)

C.A-SA1987 why are you an apologist? South Africa are world number 1, the is no reason to apologise to muppets like swingbowler. Where in this article is SA compared to the WI of the 80's? When did SA fans say they will beat Pakistan 3-0? If people want to act like clowns here then let them.

Quit apologizing and just enjoy your team being number 1 while it last.

Posted by crashed on (January 31, 2013, 21:49 GMT)

Well I am a SA supporter and frankly - even when we played against Australia I said - let the best team win - look back at any posts I made here and I still say let the best team win - I am looking forward to the contest and it just amuses me that any1 can predict a 3-0 whitewash either way. The 3-0 predictions is rarely from SA supporters and I had seen enough of these predictions to know it does not ring true in most cases. ReverseSwingMaster hold your horsies if you are visiting SA and attend the matches ... Welcome to SA and enjoy the series the SA crowd and our hospitality they will even embrace you for being here if you are not in SA then I pity you - you should really be here with your team good luck and may the best team win :)

Posted by Soso_killer on (January 31, 2013, 21:41 GMT)

This is the most flawed build up i have ever seen. "Some may laugh that Peterson v Ajmal is a contest". If they did not laugh when you guys started comparing Khan who averages a paltry 33 in SA compared to the greatest cricketer ever who averages 58 in SA, they never will.

I am looking forward to this series, just dont ruin it by making irrelevant contest. If Pakistan are to do well here, then they need to work as a unit. Not individuals v individuals. Man for man SA are too superior for that.

Posted by No1_Jon on (January 31, 2013, 21:39 GMT)

@C.A-SA1987 Hear Hear...lets all calm down and enjoy what will no doubt be an interesting, if not tight, contest. We all know that SA have a formidable test team but we also know what Pakistan can serve up on both good and bad days. Exciting is a good word to describe this contest.

@cricket-india I have to agree with you in that the 'head:head' parings could have been better drafted.

Posted by goutamaniad on (January 31, 2013, 21:17 GMT)

Fellow Saffa supporters,

Pay ReverseSwingMaster no heed; (s)he's deluded, engaging in a foot-in-the-mouth sort of commenting & potentially ignorant of the enduring Saffa fan's mindset, which is about being circumspect & discreet about the Proteas' chances in light of the team's not-always-illustrious history.

Posted by zaheer07 on (January 31, 2013, 21:16 GMT)

I am eagerly waiting for this series. Even though there is a strong chance that Pak will loose it, but we will have some cracking cricket. That's for sure... Waiting to see Pak bowlers vs SA batsmen... and not putting much hope at Pak batsmen... SA bowlers might prove too handy for them...

Posted by djdrastic on (January 31, 2013, 20:57 GMT)

Oh come on Ajmal vs Petersen ? I'm a saffer but you have to be kidding me . Ajmal is leagues above Robbie . Disappointing to see hotheaded paki fans in here , since there has been little to no negative publicity on this paki series , as our guys know this will be a tough series to win . Hoping for a terrific series after the poor NZ show.

Posted by worldorder on (January 31, 2013, 20:57 GMT)

Peterson has been mentioned in the same sentence as Ajaml. Now that's laughable. On another note, we have been known to gift wickets to left arm spinners.. hopefully not this time.

Posted by SICHO on (January 31, 2013, 20:40 GMT)

@ReverseSwingMaster it seems to me that you can't differentiate between someone who "performs" and someone who is "overrated", and speaking of overhyping someone. What about your Junaid Khan and the tower Irfan? These are the kind of guys who are actually are OVERRATED.

Posted by bluefunk on (January 31, 2013, 19:44 GMT)

@SurlyCynic: I see what you did there. :)

Posted by C.A-SA1987 on (January 31, 2013, 19:18 GMT)

@Posted by ReverseSwingMaster on (January 31 2013, 18:08 PM GMT)

Relax yourself there chap. You seem a bit angry.

At no point do any of the South African fans undersestimate the Pakistani team. Go look at all our local sporting blogs and website. All the pundits reckon this could be our toughest series in a while.

So please, stop being so angry and lets just enjoy some good test cricket between 2 good test team.

All the comments about 3-0 "thrashing" are from indian fans by the way.

Posted by tokoloshe on (January 31, 2013, 19:11 GMT)

Reverse swing - You are one angry fellow. Over hyped bowlers? I think they deserve all the hype they have got and the stats also suggest this. Until someone takes Philander apart or dominates Steyn and Morkel, they deserve to be revered. So back off and enjoy the cricket!

Posted by getsetgopk on (January 31, 2013, 19:02 GMT)

The good thing about a Pak-SA contest is that there is always very less hype about either of the teams. Both sides are made up of some supremely talented individuals and any showdown between the two is always about hard fought cricket and nothing else. May the best one win.

Posted by gsingh7 on (January 31, 2013, 18:58 GMT)

what type of comparisons are these , not at all relevant , how u compare morkel who is proven performer to overrated and yet untested irfan who might get injured inside first hour thus making pak bowl one bowler short.

Posted by SurlyCynic on (January 31, 2013, 18:28 GMT)

Looking forward to these clashes. I'll be sitting at square leg appreciating Ajmal's magnificent action.

Posted by ReverseSwingMaster on (January 31, 2013, 18:08 GMT)

Just like the SA fans predicting and thrashing PAK 3-0, the writer also one sided and biased. Feeling like they have the team of WI 80. One question Does SA team have no weakness at all????Totally underestimating and writing off PAK.Even if they praise but not sure what they saying. I'm waiting for the day when PAK bowlers would walking over the heads of SA and thrashing over hyped bowlers by SA fans STEYN,MORKEL,PHILANDER all over the park. I'm saving my comments for that articles.

Posted by cricket-india on (January 31, 2013, 18:04 GMT)

what kind of 'head-to'head' comparison is this??? apart from smith vs junaid, the rest are laughable. head-to-head means exactly that - a face-off. a kallis-younis face-off will happen if kallis bowls to younis, and that's not exactly gonna be the cracker we're waiting for this series. the interesting head-to-head tussles would be 1) smith vs junaid 2) steyn vs jamshed 3) ajmal vs kallis/amla 4)smith vs misbah (in terms of captainc tactics and team management). the outcome of the series depends on these head-to-head battles, not the ones between ajmal and peterson!!

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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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