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The Preview by Kanishkaa Balachandran
February 13, 2013
Match factsFebruary 14-18, 2013
Were Pakistan really Test-ready ahead of the Wanderers Test? Going by their first-innings capitulation for 49 - their lowest Test score - certainly not.
When you're up against the No.1 side in the world, you want to give your players enough time to acclimatise and adjust to the seamer-friendly conditions. A solitary warm-up game in East London wasn't enough. With the first Test starting nearly three weeks after the India tour ended, there were suggestions that Pakistan could have arrived in South Africa earlier, and probably squeezed in another warm-up. Mohammad Hafeez had stated recently that Pakistan needed more Tests in their calendar to get some momentum going. For a team that last played a Test in July, their preparation ahead of the Wanderers was inadequate. They were caught short against the moving ball and the captain Misbah-ul-Haq said Dale Steyn was too much for his batsmen to handle.
Their opposition in the warm-up between Tests - the Emerging Cape Cobras - may not have been the strongest, but it was an opportunity to rectify those technical glitches, and Younis Khan was the only batsman to score a fifty. The pitch at Newlands is expected to give Pakistan some relief, as it is expected to favour the batsmen more than the Wanderers strip did. What Pakistan need to show is resilience, and since Misbah took over, they've shown plenty of that.
South Africa have no such concerns and will look to wrap up the series at their strongest home venue. Graeme Smith, who led South Africa to the top of the rankings, will be playing his 100th Test as captain of his country. Their decision not to rotate their bowlers, unlike Australia, indicated they're hungry to close out the series as soon as possible. The early finish at the Wanderers gave them an extra day's rest.
South Africa WWWWD
In the spotlight
Sarfraz Ahmed was preferred ahead of Adnan Akmal as the wicketkeeper for the Tests, for reasons not properly explained. Though his keeping was tidy at the Wanderers, he had a poor game with the bat, scoring 2 and 6. As the lone specialist keeper in the squad, coupled with the absence of the Akmal brothers, his place in the line-up doesn't look in danger, but Pakistan will need better contributions from him as a lower-order batsman. It would be unfair to write Sarfraz off too quickly, since he had played just one Test prior to the Wanderers since his international debut in 2007. The forthcoming Tests present an opportunity to establish himself in the squad as the first-choice keeper.
Robin Peterson was a forgotten man during Pakistan's collapse for 49, because he wasn't required. Though he got 10 overs in the second innings, he returned wicketless. He admitted that it can be lonely as a spinner in these conditions: "It's no fun sometimes being the spinner in South Africa and you go through periods of play where you don't even bowl." He is unlikely to be made redundant in Newlands, though, with the pitch expected to give more assistance to the spinners compared to the one at the Wanderers.
There was bad news for Pakistan on the eve of the Test, with the left-arm seamer Junaid Khan in doubt as he is yet to recover from a thigh injury. Mohammad Irfan, the 7ft left-armer who toured India recently, was anyway in line for a Test debut after his seven-wicket haul in the warm-up. Pakistan's coach Dav Whatmore hinted at playing an additional spinner, Abdur Rehman, which means Rahat Ali, who went wicketless in the first Test, may have to make way.
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 and 11 Junaid Khan/ Mohammad Irfan/Rahat Ali
South Africa will play an unchanged line-up.
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
Pitch and conditions
The pitch was watered on Tuesday night and a fair amount of grass was shaved off. There are small hints of green and it looks the usual, good Newlands strip. It was expected to be a 'grafting' surface, something the batsmen should enjoy. There is a possibility of rain tomorrow so a delayed start is likely.
Stats and trivia
"The more accolades there are, the more expectation there is on me. I woke up before the Wanderers Test at 4am dreaming I had got a pair."
Graeme Smith on captaining South Africa for the 100th time, at Newlands.
"I am really confident that these guys can fight back. Whenever we've had tough times, we have been able to come out of it."
Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain.
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Kanishkaa Balachandran
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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