December 29, 2002

South Africa go one up with clinical win over Pakistan

The South African opening pair of Herschelle Gibbs and Graeme Smith made short work of scoring the 44 runs required to beat Pakistan by ten wickets in the First Castle Lager/MTN Test at Kingsmead in Durban.

From the moment that man-of-the-match Jacques Kallis scored his hundred at the end of day one Pakistan was under pressure.

Having won the toss and fielded under overcast conditions the Pakistan bowlers never got the ball consistently in the right area. Two early wickets should have got their backs up but Gary Kirsten and Kallis showed the opposition that to be successful in Test cricket one has to concentrate hard and occupy the crease.

It must be said that Kallis played one of his best Test innings. On a good batting pitch he played himself in and thereafter hardly gave any chances, working the ball around and punishing anything loose. He barely ever hit the ball in the air in the course of his innings. Kirsten too was a model of concentration. Lucky to survive a leg before decision when on 31 the southpaw was not put off his stride and went on to make his 29th Test fifty.

The Pakistan batsmen should have learnt a lesson or two from their South African counterparts. Saleem Elahi and Taufeeq Umar showed that they could concentrate for long periods, but each time they passed the fifty partnership they seemed to lose it and gift their wickets away.

The same can be said for most of the Pakistan batsmen in the second innings. Needing to bat for as long as possible to save the game or to set a reasonable target the batsmen reached twenties and thirties before giving their wickets away. Far too many wickets fell to balls that should have been left alone.

At the end of the match, Waqar Younis agreed, saying, "the batting was our downfall, we played some silly shots that was very disappointing. Having won the toss we did not bowl as well as they did and something we have to learn before the second Test".

The South African bowlers can take a lot of credit for the win, having adjusted their length and line as the conditions changed. Patience and perseverance were also key factors and the Proteas bowlers appeared to know that, in time the batsmen would get them selves out.

Mornantau Hayward picked up his first 5-for and walked away with seven wickets while Makhaya Ntini pocketed five in the match. Nicky Boje might just have done enough to sneak into the World Cup squad while Shaun Pollock and Kallis maintain their status as leading all-rounders.

Pollock, on accepting the winner's cheque praised the clinical way that the South Africans batted and bowled and stressed on how good the pitch was for Test cricket.

One of the few positives for Pakistan must be the opening partnerships where both batsmen have protected the rest of the top order from the new ball. However once the new ball has been seen off, the task is not complete.

Waqar Younis and Mohammad Sami bowled well with the older ball, both getting it to reverse swing at will with many remembering Kallis getting bowled shouldering arms to one swinging back late. Saqlain Mushtaq, not getting a lot of assistance from the Kingsmead pitch, showed what a class bowler he is and will be a hand full on a more favourable Newlands pitch.

Pakistan has a lot of work to do in the week before the second Test starting in Cape Town in the New Year. Some soul searching and dedication is going to have to be discussed, while a technique is going to have to be worked on to counter the quick bouncy South African pitches.

There are enough class performers in the visitors' team who the South Africans have not seen the best of. Whether a week is long enough to sort out the problems and get into shape, only time will tell.