South Africa v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Centurion February 21, 2013

Centurion fortress to test battered Pakistan

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Match facts

February 22-26, 2013
Start time 1030 local (0830 GMT)

Big picture

If the first half of the South African home Test season was one-sided, the second hasn't been very competitive. Pakistan are in danger of suffering the same fate as New Zealand, in conceding a series sweep. Such has been South Africa's dominance that both Tests so far haven't gone into the fifth day. Pakistan, to their credit, showed fight at Newlands and at one stage, it was the hosts' turn to sweat and play catch-up. But against the best side in the world, the improved showing wasn't good enough. The visitors were guilty of taking their foot off the pedal when the advantage was theirs to extend, and their surrender threw up many baffling questions, ranging from team selection to Misbah-ul-Haq's tactics.

For starters, if the Newlands pitch was predicted to be the most favourable among the three Test surfaces for Pakistan, with its tendency to aid spin, why wasn't Abdur Rehman picked as the second spinner? Rehman was talked about as a likely replacement for the injured Junaid Khan, but he was benched. Saeed Ajmal ended up shouldering the burden of two spinners rather than one, his ten-wicket haul coming in a losing cause. Tanvir Ahmed drew flak for his harmless, 120 kph medium-pacers, who didn't even have the movement to trouble the batsmen. His was hardly a like-for-like replacement for Junaid and during the Test he looked least likely to get a breakthrough.

One player who could have given Ajmal the support needed was Mohammad Hafeez, but he was mysteriously underbowled by Misbah in both innings. Hafeez picked up four in an innings at the Wanderers, but bowled less than 12 overs in the match at Newlands. With the hosts on the brink of victory, Hafeez got one to dart off the rough so much that first slip collected the ball. One wondered about the impact he could have made had he been used effectively as a second spinner. His handling was not properly explained after the game. If Pakistan are to make a fist of the dead rubber at Centurion, they need to recognise their strengths and utilise their players properly, injury permitting of course.

A win at Centurion will not only give South Africa their fifth consecutive home Test win but also 50 Test wins for their captain Graeme Smith, who's now the most successful Test captain in history. South Africa don't play any Tests till the end of this year and Smith spoke of signing off this season with another win.

Form guide

South Africa WWWWW
Pakistan LLDDL

In the spotlight

Mohammad Irfan was one of the positives to emerge from the Newlands Test for Pakistan. The 7ft left-armer had an impressive debut, taking three first-innings wickets, but more than the wickets it was the steep bounce and teasing angle across the right-handers that drew notice. Several deliveries clocked in excess of 140 kph and if he can maintain that speed, he could be more than a handful in Centurion.

The Decision Review System was a topic of controversy at Newlands, with Jacques Kallis' dismissal in the first innings causing plenty of confusion, followed by an apology by the ICC's Playing Control Team stating that he was wrongly adjudged out. While the system has been effective in correcting howlers, loopholes still remain. Both Tests so far have had issues with technology but despite the glitches, both teams are in favour of the DRS.

Team news

Pakistan hinted at a change at the top six, but Misbah, not known to reveal changes on the eve of a Test, stopped short of naming players. Junaid's return isn't certain either, though the team manager said he was feeling better. Tanvir's poor showing might prompt a change, with rookie seamer Ehsan Adil, left-armer Rahat Ali and Rehman in the mix.

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 Mohammad Irfan, 11 Junaid Khan/Rahat Ali/Ehsan Adil/Abdur Rehman

South Africa announced just one change, with Rory Kleinveldt coming in for the injured Morne Morkel.

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 Robin Peterson, 9 Vernon Philander, 10 Rory Kleinveldt, 11 Dale Steyn

Pitch and conditions

A typical fast bowler's strip is expected at Centurion. It has a tinge of green and is expected to be bouncier than Newlands and the high humidity is likely to aid swing. Thunderstorms are expected.

Stats and trivia

  • South Africa have lost just one Test at Centurion since readmission. It came against England after both captains agreed to forfeit an innings each.
  • Jacques Kallis is the highest run-scorer for South Africa at Centurion with 1267 runs at 70.68 with five centuries. He is also the joint second-highest wicket-taker for South Africa at the venue with 31 wickets with Dale Steyn, behind Makhaya Ntini (54).

Quotes

"I'm running out of things to say. I am looking forward to that number growing even more. It's a great achievement for me and the guys that I have played with."
Graeme Smith on his thoughts on approaching 50 Test wins as captain.

"They know the importance of Test cricket. Everybody knows the importance and every team wants to win every game. It's not about winning series, its about winning every game."
Misbah-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, does not think South Africa will take their foot off the gas.

Kanishkaa Balachandran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • duncanmoo on February 22, 2013, 8:20 GMT

    I just love the form guide South Africa WWWWW. South African supporters revel/relish this, but dont be arrogant to others, it was just the other year that we had a lot more D's and L's in that line.

  • Sports4Youth on February 22, 2013, 8:18 GMT

    SA with the toss and bat first.

    But the big news is Imran FARTHAT replacing NASIR Jamshed. After the passing of every match it is becoming clearer that Misbah panicing. Jamshed got a bad decision in the 1st innings of the 1st match. Made a stylish 46 in the 2nd innings and recieved some special deliveries in the 2nd test. Yet replaced and HAFEEZ who played badly continues and does not bowl as well. BAD DECISION.

    In the bowling attack, good that GUL is injured. I am not sure he is really injured. Since Sept, 2010 Gul has been playing all matches including all practice matches. I think this time Misbah must have felt pressured to drop Gul and try a new combination. In anycase Gul was becoming a liability. THE ONLY PROBLEM IS THAT THE PACE ATTACK HAS A COMBINED EXPERIENCE OF 2 (TWO) TEST MATCHES WITH A 19 YEAR OLD DEBUTANT. Infact all of them have debuted during this series. I hope the senior players are able to guide them..

    .

  • Zia-R on February 22, 2013, 7:46 GMT

    just due to misbha's negative approach and some good luck for SA pakistan have lost the 2nd test match but not this time for sure.

  • dummy4fb on February 22, 2013, 7:13 GMT

    zia-ar. concentrate on your team statistics for a change Form guide South Africa WWWWW Pakistan LLDDL

  • dummy4fb on February 22, 2013, 7:12 GMT

    SA is the number team now adays and they played well then Pakistan however our prayers are with Pakistan and wish that they win. Rahat and Tanveer both are tested but no fruitfull results with the bowling, i think ehsan Adi should be given the chance if wicket is supporting fast bowling otherwise Rehman is the best choice.

  • Zia-R on February 22, 2013, 6:26 GMT

    i can bet Pakistan will win this match, i think SA does not deserve the first place, i am still with australia, Australia is still the best cricket team. and this last match will tell u people.

  • spas on February 22, 2013, 6:25 GMT

    battered Sri Lanka managed a test win amid underestimations they were getting from all over the world a some time back. By the way, it is the armies matter, not the fortress. more determined team will win.

  • JunaidRao on February 22, 2013, 6:06 GMT

    Another defeat is waiting for Pakistan.

  • dummy4fb on February 22, 2013, 5:18 GMT

    ummm difficult pitch still pak is most unpredictable team in the world u never know .hafeez has to do to smthing if pak wants to win but odds are against them SA is world no 1 with a class seam attack

  • ColJJ on February 22, 2013, 5:08 GMT

    Nice analysis , thank you very much. A mistake from Misbah, that should have been mentioned is, "Muhammad Irfan should have been given first new ball in first innings." Prior to the test series, Irfan was speculated as a potential threat and surprise package for RSA and his debut was the most likely affair at Wanderer's. Astonishment of Pakistani fans had not alleviated yet, when they saw another odd - that is, ignoring Irfan in 1st innings (with new ball) at Newlands and handing new ball a below average pacer. Secondly, Pakistan's fielding was also not as good as on Wanderer's, and; drop catches cost them extra runs that could have been sufficient enough to drag the game into day-5 and probably inverting the final result. To sum up, " Very strange tactics from Pakistani Skipper"