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Firdose Moonda at Newlands
February 13, 2013
Junaid Khan, the left-arm quick, is a major doubt for Pakistan ahead of the second Test against South Africa. He took a tumble a few days ago and the wounds on his thigh are still healing so he may not be considered for selection.
At the pre-match press conference, Pakistan's coach Dav Whatmore initially said Junaid was unavailable for the Cape Town Test. When pushed for confirmation he then revealed that Junaid will be fit for the third Test in Centurion. However, team manager Naved Cheema added to the confusion by saying Junaid has made progress and could be picked for the Newlands match.
If Junaid is ruled out, a second spinner, the left-armer Abdur Rehman could make an appearance on what is expected to be a dry surface. What seems unlikely to depend on Junaid's fitness is the fate of 7ft quick Mohammed Irfan, who is in line for a Test debut at Newlands after his seven wickets in the tour match against the Emerging Cape Cobras.
South Africa have been preparing for the Irfan who Graeme Smith said will present them with a "unique challenge." Jokes about Allan Donald standing on a cooler box to give the batsmen throw-downs are just wisecracks but Alviro Petersen confirmed that the team has done extensive technical analysis on Irfran.
What they have also been studying is Pakistan's batting technique. Sixteen of the 20 wickets in the first Test fell to catches behind the stumps, suggesting that Pakistan did not leave as well as they could have. Whatmore attributed that to insufficient time spent getting used to conditions, a common problem with modern fixture lists.
"The longer you play here, the better you will get. The same applies when teams from here tour the sub-continent. They have got better because they tour there so often," he said. Pakistan played one four-day match ahead of the first Test on an East London pitch that was completely dissimilar to the one they put on at the Wanderers.
They have since had another game, of only two days despite the break between matches extending to 10, against the Emerging Cape Cobras. "We could have had more practice matches beforehand maybe but the schedule did not allow for it," Whatmore said.
While Pakistan attribute their first innings performance in Johannesburg on adjustment, Smith chose to credit the South African attack for who testing the opposition technique and showing it up. "I'd like to put it down to our guys getting good swing. They also allowed us to bowl at them and we managed to control the run rate," he said.
Conditions at Newlands may not allow for the same approach. On a surface that will offer less the quicks than the Wanderers, Pakistan may find it a little easier to judge their off stump. But Smith hopes that will work in South Africa's favour too. "If you come into the game with the mindset to leave, you are going to be tentative," he said.
For that reason, Whamore has spent the last ten days concentrating on helping the batsmen understand the choices they will have to make in this match. "Shot selection is the main thing with any batsman," he said. "If you make 90 or 100 correct decisions in an innings, you are going to score a lot of runs."
Nasir Jamshed was the player Whatmore was most disappointed in after the Wanderers. After playing himself into a position to get his maiden Test half-century, Jamshed pulled a short ball straight at mid-on when he could so easily have played a different shot.
Whatmore singled out the young opener because he showed he had the potential to get the better of the opposition bowlers for a period of time and then caused his own downfall. Jamshed did not get the opportunity to practice rectifying that in a match situation because he turned his ankle before game against the Emerging Cape Cobras but it has healed in the lead up to his Test.
That will come as some good news for Pakistan, who have been hit by a spate of injuries and illnesses on this tour. Taufeeq Umar and Haris Sohail were sent home before the first and second Tests respectively, Asad Shafiq almost missed the first Test with a hand injury, wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed was hit on the nose and Mohammed Hafeez had a viral infection.
Sarfraz and Hafeez have both been cleared to play in the second Test which means Pakistan avoid the need for wholesale changes. It will be down to the same top order to make amends.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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