1st Test Preview: Pakistan will look to end South Africa's dominance
by Asher Wilson
DateLine: 1st February 2013
South Africa v Pakistan
1st Test 2013
It's been six years since Pakistan last visited South Africa. It was a three-match series which the hosts won 2-1, and where AB de Villiers opened the batting. Things have changed drastically since then for both sides. While South Africa has stamped its authority on the Test cricket stage over the last 12 months, Pakistan has quietly gone about its business after the match-fixing scandal broke in England back in 2010.
Itís understandable to be a little jumpy. With the Proteas only barely escaping a whitewash in their recent ODI series with New Zealand, the after-effects resonates in a quiet panic among the cricketing public.
One look at the South African test squad team sheet and the reason that they are at the top of the test cricketing pile becomes all the more apparent. Or rather, approximately seven reasons, possibly more. Graeme Smith will complete his 100th test as leader of a side, skippering the World XI on one occasion. The second test will mark his century as captain of South Africa. This, and over 8600 test runs at an average just shy of 50.00 will have marked Smithís name in the record books for a time to come. Hashim Amla is among the finest stroke players in the world, Jacques Kallis is irreplaceable and AB de Villiers has been one of the more exciting prospects in world cricket for a stretch now. These four men form the majority of the top six, a frightening prospect.
With the ball, Dale Steyn is fast becoming the most successful South African bowler of all time. At 29-years-old he is 110 wickets short of Shaun Pollock and if he continues to keep as fit as he has and is managed adequately, should challenge even loftier heights. The compliment is rounded off by Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander, two completely different prospects both capable of tearing through batting lineups cheaply. Seven of the best, and four more aspiring champions, thereís not much more you could ask for.
Perpetual road warriors Pakistan will have their work cut out for them away from the subcontinent. They tour South Africa on a seldom basis, the result being inexperience within the squad with regards to the conditions. Younger members of the batting squad such as Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali and Nasir Jamshed have never played cricket on South African soil before and none of the current bowling attack have sent down an over in Test cricket on a South African deck. However, this has the unnerving quality of beginnerís luck. They sure have the manpower, tallest cricketer in the world Mohammad Irfan earning his call up among four other changes to the squad that toured Sri Lanka. He is likely to be handful with his pace and bounce, with Saeed Ajmal providing the Proteas with their first stern test of spin since claiming the number one ranking. In the warm-up fixture the Pakistani middle-order looked characteristically brittle, and they will need to shore this aspect up if they hope to be competitive for five days against the South Africans, let alone claim an historic series victory.
The Wanderers in Johannesburg will play host to the first test and is usually hard, fast and bouncy, which in this case may suit both sides. Itís how the batsmen deal with the extra pace that proves to make the difference, and the South Africans should have that area covered. The Pakistanis suffered a heavy defeat at the ground in 1995 but managed a draw in 1998, Pat Symcox famously scoring a rearguard century at number ten in the South African first innings. Since then, they have not played here and none of their players will have any test experience at the ground. There is chance of scattered thunderstorms on the final day.
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
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 Junaid Khan, 11 Mohammed Irfan/Tanvir Ahmed
(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only.
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