South Africa v Pakistan, 1st Test, Johannesburg, 4th day February 4, 2013

Pakistan left searching for answers

South Africa are becoming fearsome on their home patch and Pakistan have just over a week to come up with a method to make the series a contest

Pakistan have ten days and a two-day match to revive themselves ahead of their next bout with South Africa. They will play a Western Province Invitation XI at the Vineyard Cricket Club next Monday and Tuesday to get game time and will look at plans to counter the new ball specifically in the training sessions before the Cape Town Test.

After becoming the third team in 14 months to be bowled out for less than fifty in South Africa, Pakistan "took the emotion out," of what happened, according to their coach Dav Whatmore, and "tried to understand the facts." What they have surmised is that South Africa's potent new-ball attack can be as unplayable as they look, especially when conditions are in their favour and Pakistan need to find a way to counterattack.

"It's really important to negotiate the new ball," Misbah-ul-Haq said afterwards. "We need to concentrate on how to tackle outswing with the new ball. If you look at this match, the way Dale Steyn bowled was the turning point, the line that he bowled and the way he swung the ball. For a team from Asia, it a very difficult to deal with that kind of thing."

The batsmen's ability to adjust was always expected to be the biggest challenge Pakistan would face on the first trip to South Africa in five years. While many would argue that most batting line-ups around the world would have been equally blown away by South Africa's bowling performance, there are some who will question Pakistan's preparation.

Ramiz Raja is one of them. In his analysis with ESPNcricinfo, he was critical of the team's build-up, said they should have arrived in the country weeks earlier and asked for more than one warm-up match before the Test series in order to acclimatise.

That cannot be changed but what Pakistan can do is use the substantial amount of time between matches to fully cook what was perhaps a little raw when they arrived and rectify the situation somewhat. The Western Province bowlers will not be of the quality of the South African attack but the match will provide Pakistan with an opportunity to play in local conditions and, although it is not a first-class match, in fairly competitive situations instead of endless nets.

They will also take heart from their second attempt at the Wanderers as a sign that they are settling in. Three players, Nasir Jamshed, Asad Shafiq and Misbah himself, had some measure of the conditions. They showed a little more certainty outside the offstump and more discretion with their aggressive intent.

It showed them what they need to do to overcome South Africa. "We had an improved performance with the batting in the second innings," Misbah said. "When you go there and hang in, it gives you a little bit of confidence. It's not that we can't do it. Everybody has learnt a lesson. It's a good batting unit so now it's about applying yourself and getting starts."

With Pakistan's batting the focus, their strong bowling performance on the first day has just about been forgotten about. But Misbah is mindful that the attack too, has work to do. "Against such a quality batting line up we need to improve day by day because they are not going to give you anything," he said.

Pakistan's reliance on spin could also help to even things out for the second Test. Although Cape Town is not exactly the sub-continent, it does take a bit of turn. Graeme Smith said: "From a style factor, of using majority spinners and seamers in short bursts, it will suit them better than it did here."

While Newlands could be a leveller in some respects, it is also the ground that South Africa call their fortress. They last lost 11 Test matches ago in 2006, against Australia. It is not a thought that will leave Misbah feeling very comfortable, especially as he acknowledged that he does not need his mission to become any more difficult. "They are the No.1 side world, it's not easy and everybody knows that. We have to improve and we have to play well," he said.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ghinva on February 7, 2013, 9:06 GMT

    Agree with @ Andrew..a team as good as Pakistan,cannot be called rubbish be noted a team which have not played a home series for more than 3 years..South Africa no doubt have emerged one of the best teams,but Pakistan is anything but not-capable..hope the boys come up with the terms to show their real potenial..& play a good cricket..

  • Cricket on February 6, 2013, 21:25 GMT

    Gul was initially said to have good pace & swing and also good control over reverse swing. But now we see none of this. His pace is down to 130-135. I dont remember swinging the new ball. Does not show any seam movement. Reverse swing is no longer in his book. BUT THE WORST PART THAT IRRITATES ME MOST IS THAT, INSTEAD OF MAKING THE BATSMAN PLAY WITH THE NEW BALL, HE BOWLS TOO WIDE, SO THE BATSMAN IS HAPPY LEAVING THE BALL WHILE IT IS GETTING OLDER. BY THE TIME SOME OTHER BOWLER GETS THE BALL (IN THIS CASE RAHAT) THE SHINE IS GONE, THE BALL IS NO MORE NEW. ALSO AT TIMES HE GIVES AWAY A LOT OF QUICK & EASY RUNS.

    Enough is enough. Please forget him and move on. There are so many bowlers having average below22. Why do you need this Gul whose FC avg is almost 29 and Test 33.53.

    All over the World any bowler having avg.30+ gets dumped. How come Gul is enjoying the status of spearhead inspite of all his failures & limitations.


  • Cricket on February 6, 2013, 13:06 GMT

    Please compare the following performances in first class & Tests and Kindly explain to me how Gul can be the spearhead of the Pakistan Attack.

    Name - - - - - - - Wicket/AVG.(FC) - - - - Wickets/Avg (Tests)

    Sadaf Hussain - - 171/17.43

    Ehsan Adil - - - - - 59/18.94

    Rahat Ali - - - - -- 152/21

    Junaid Khan - - -- 246/21.86 - - - - - - 29/28

    Asad Ali - - - - - - 355/22.87

    Mohammed Irfan-131/26.23

    Anwar Ali - - - -- 260/27.46

    Wahab Riaz - - -- 320/28.19 - - - - - - 17/34.11

    Umar Gul - - - - - 326/28.26 - - - - - - 162/33.53

    Mohammed Talha-239/28.39

    Gul has got far too many chances without really performing well. Time to move on to players like Sadaf, Ehsan, etc along with Junaid & Rahat.


  • Muhammad on February 6, 2013, 3:46 GMT

    @Desihungama Well said sir. I would like Imran Farhat to come one down to replace Azhar Ali to expose Steyn struggle against left handers. And would also like Tanvir Ahmed replace Rahat Ali and not Irfan. Irfan has only bounce and no swing at all, and because SA have a habit to play on bouncy pitches, he would make no difference. By the way, his tall frame will not intimidate SA batsmen as they have Morne Morkel to face in nets. Tanvir Ahmed can both Bat and Bowl superbly. He saved Pakistan a face against West indies with his batting the last time he played a test.

  • Muhammad on February 6, 2013, 3:02 GMT

    Tanvir Ahmed will give Pakistan two benefits: he can wreck SA batting lineup and secondly, he can strengthen the batting line up.

  • Muhammad on February 6, 2013, 2:58 GMT

    Tanvir Ahmed can both bat and bowl, but they played Rahat Ali who doesn't know anything ranging from batting to bowling to fielding.

  • Suraj on February 5, 2013, 17:28 GMT

    When Sri Lanka have been bowled out for 43, New Zealand have been bowled out for 45, Australia have been bowled out for 47, Pakistan have been bowled out for 49, doesn't that tell you something about the quality of the bowling and the difficulty of the pitches?Dale Steyn deserves his due. You can criticise Pakistan all day, but one should at least have the courtesy to appreciate a sublime bowler, a sublime talent, a once in a generation bowler, a lethal bowler who has found the edge and ran through the defences of many highly respectable test match batsmen. In an age where batsmen dominate, seeing the ball angle, swing, zip through like it does when Steyn is charging in; is agreeably a refreshing sight. His accuracy is unerring, his swing is late, his pace is always up, and his attitude is one of a man who refuses to give up...

  • Shameem on February 5, 2013, 16:33 GMT

    @harmony111: Pakistan will do better in the next matches. Whether they are world-class or not will be and should be judged at the end of the tour. We do know that they are better than India who in the past series against England and Australia are a combined 1 win and 10 losses, whereas Pakistan are 6 and 3 in the same period. So keep your obssession with the Pakistani travails against the world's best ranked team, at bay till the end of the series.

  • Shameem on February 5, 2013, 16:17 GMT

    @Harmony111: Here you are again. Will you please worry about a Certain Team that was whitewashed by England, whitewashed by Australia, defeated by Pakistn in an ODI series, defeated by England in at-home test series,instead of focusing on the travails of the Pakistani team against the world's best team?


  • Harmon on February 5, 2013, 16:00 GMT

    @Zifan Hai: The only thing right in your comment is that SA is going to get a two digit reply from Pak - hell yeah they already did it once. The rest of your comment would have made a great satire had you not been serious there. How can anyone say Pak are World Class after the way they performed in the 1st test? Even if we set aside their 1st innings fold-up what else did they do right? Bowling SA out for 250? Well, truth is, a no of SA batsmen thew their wickets away after being well set, FAf was so unlucky in the way he got out plus their running was comical too. Neither did Pak bowl great in the 2nd innings, allowing Smith, Amla & ABD to score runs freely and conceding 4+ RPO. As for their 2nd innings batting, how is a score of <300 any sign of being world class? Its not that Pak got remotely close to the target set by SA. SA were never under any pressure or felt like losing this test.