ISLAMABAD: After taking pride by beating India in India, Pakistan’s cricket team, known for its unpredictability, is all ready to take on the world’s number one test side (South Africa), which is surely predictable in dealing her opponents aggressively and with some quality cricket. Beating India at home has always been a biggest achievement and dream of Pakistan, but the dream that is yet to come true is thrashing South Africa in South Africa.
The way South Africans manhandled the Kiwis in test series during their recent visit was quite extraordinary. They, however, could not remain consistent in the One-Day series, but, overall the New Zealanders were entirely dominated by the hosts. On the other hand, confidence of the national squad is sky high, as it has always been, after beating the arch rivals. However, their biggest test will start on February 1, as the South African conditions and pitches would not be easy to deal with. The crumbling batting line up of Pakistan will surely be tested by the fast and aggressive pace attack of the hosts on bouncy and seaming wickets. Although, Pakistan has done really well in test cricket, winning four out of the last five test series including her incredible clean sweep against England in United Arab Emirates in year 2011/12, but beating the resilient South Africans will not be a piece of cake.
If we look at the past record, 18 test matches have so far been played between the two sides, of which, eight were won by South Africa and three by Pakistan while seen remained draw. Moreover, out of the eight test series between the two top cricketing nations, South Africa bagged five, Pakistan onewhile two were drawn. Pakistan have yet to kneel down South Africans at home, however, this time around they have every opportunity of doing so provided the sort of form some of the key players are enjoying including Muhammad Hafeez, NasirJamshed and the young, enthusiastic emerging talent of Junaid Khan and lanky fast bowler Muhammad Irfan.
On fast, bouncy and seaming wickets of South Africa, Junaid Khan and Muhammad Irfan together with the experienced Umar Gul could prove to be the lethal weapons for Pakistan. After the recentce of the two young fast bowlers in India, their confidence would be rocketed high. All they need is to transform that confidence into a really good performance to make history for their side.
The seven feet one Irfan is a wonderful addition to the team having pace and extra bounce, however, it will be interesting to see how Misbah will use him in the test series. “The team is a nice blend of senior and junior players but Adnan Akmal should have been in the squad,” said Mohsin Hassan Khan, a former test cricketer.
He said the return of Abdul Rehman and Faisal Iqbal was an encouraging step, adding, there were huge expectations with Umar Gul, Junaid Khan and Muhammad Irfan as the conditions would suite them a lot.
Batting department of the national team has always been a matter of concern especially on seaming tracks. The performance of some of the youngsters has been praise-worthy in past few series including Azhar Ali and AsadShafiq, however, it was the time that seniors including Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq will also have to take responsibility and lead from the front.
“There should have been a batting coach with the team as we all know that Pakistan’s batting is weak and if the national side loses, it will only be because of her batting,” said former test cricketer, Zaheer Abbas.
He said South Africa was really a tough side equally good in all three departments including batting, bowling and fielding. The tour will demonstrate where Pakistan stands in test cricket as she will have to play beyond her abilities to defeat a team like South Africa, he added.
Story first published: 31st January 2013