This tour was the beginning of important seasons for both teams as they jockeyed for position as the leading Test challengers to Australia. Hansie Cronje encouraged the perception that victories in Pakistan and, on South Africa's next stop, Australia, would make his side world Test champions: I do not believe that victory in both Pakistan and Australia is an unrealistic goal. I believe we can do it, he said. Meanwhile, Pakistan were celebrating their Golden Jubilee as a country and a cricket union, and had Test series lined up against both South Africa and West Indies, plus a short series against neighbours India and a bumper day-night quadrangular.
But it was the South Africans who were celebrating by the time they departed, having taken the Test series in a startling climax at Faisalabad and beaten all comers in the floodlit spectacular. After they drew on a dead pitch at Rawalpindi and a saturated one at Sheikhupura, a green strip in the final Test saw South Africa concede the advantage, only to fight back to wrap up Pakistan's second innings for 92 - chasing 146 - on the fourth day.
Several heroes emerged in that decisive match. There was 37-year-old off-spinner Pat Symcox - able to get under the skin as well as between bat and pad - who played a vital role as batsman, bowler and team motivator, vice-captain Gary Kirsten, who carried his bat for five hours on the opening day after the rest of the top order folded, and Shaun Pollock, who put the skids under Pakistan at Faisalabad with four wickets in seven balls. His ten wickets in the series and some useful batting contributions also established him a an authentic all-rounder, alongside Brian McMillan and Lance Klusener, increasing South Africa's options for team balance. With Allan Donald leading the attack, fast bowling was still their most potent weapon. Left-arm pace bowler Brett Schultz was grateful for the chance of a third international comeback after nearly a year spent fixing knees, shoulders and other pieces of strained body. But he burst a blood vessel in his bowling shoulder on the first morning of the series and dropped out again. The 20-year-old chinaman and googly bowler Paul Adams achieved little on this trip.
For the hosts, Wasim Akram began the season still recovering from a shoulder injury, and Waqar Younis had only just returned from his physically and emotionally draining Championship-winning season with Glamorgan. The famous fast bowling duo were not to appear together until the final Test. Instead, Pakistan's leading wicket-takers were Mushtaq Ahmed and Saqlain Mushtaq, probably the best pairing of spinners in world cricket, who claimed 23 between them. The batting headlines were stolen by two youngsters, Ali Naqvi and Azhar Mahmood, who became the first pair of debutants to score centuries in the same Test innings.
This was the first time the teams had played a Test in Pakistan; South Africa had won their only previous meeting, a one-off in Johannesburg in January 1995, by a massive 324 runs. But they had toured Pakistan twice for one-day tournaments, which inspired a comprehensive reconnaissance mission by UCB representative Goolam Rajah. This resulted in the cancellation of Quetta as a warm-up venue and the addition of an extra ten days at the start to acclimatise to the extreme heat - but excellent facilities - of Karachi, a decision the team were later to regard as vital. They were afforded the inadvertent luxury of a low-key build-up while India were making their first visit to Pakistan for eight years for three one-day games. Inevitable crowd violence and a 2-1 victory to Pakistan commanded local attention, while South African coach Bob Woolmer was overseeing four-hour training sessions in extreme heat. South Africa's attention to detail also meant that 500 kilograms of pasta, biscuits, sponsors' beer and sweets were flown out with the squad, as well as an extra coffin containing 200 videos and various electronic games. All the effort eventually brought reward on the field.
|S. M. Pollock||3||4||1||156||82||0||1||52.00||1|
|A. M. Bacher||3||4||0||161||96||0||2||40.25||4|
|P. L. Symcox||3||4||0||158||81||0||2||39.50||1|
|D. J. Richardson||2||3||1||53||45*||0||0||26.50||6|
|W. J. Cronje||3||4||0||104||50||0||1||26.00||2|
|B. M. McMillan||3||4||0||37||21||0||0||9.25||2|
|D. J. Cullinan||3||4||0||32||16||0||0||8.00||1|
|A. A. Donald||2||3||0||10||8||0||0||3.33||2|
|P. R. Adams||2||3||1||4||3*||0||0||2.00||0|
|W. J. Cronje||18.5||4||60||4||2-6||0||15.00|
|S. M. Pollock||83||21||232||10||5-37||1||23.20|
|P. L. Symcox||82.3||22||233||8||3-8||0||29.12|
|A. A. Donald||67.4||9||226||7||3-108||0||32.28|
At National Stadium, Karachi, October 1, 2, 3. Drawn. Toss: South Africans. South Africans 305 for seven dec. ( D. J. Cullinan 45, W. J. Cronje 35, J. N. Rhodes 34, J. H. Kallis 52, S. M. Pollock 74 not out; Ali Hussain Rizvi five for 89) and 254 for eight dec. ( A. M. Bacher 40, G. Kirsten 61, D. J. Cullinan 44, S. M. Pollock 47 not out; Ali Hussain Rizvi six for 57); PCB Combined XI 132 ( Mohammad Ramzan 32, Ali Naqvi 61; P. R. Adams three for 11, P. L. Symcox four for 25) and 237 for four ( Ali Naqvi 113, Rana Qayyum 83 not out).
Match reports for