A fortnight away from Pakistan’s tour to South Africa, we preview the chances of the team, as they look to take on the number 1 team in the world, in their own den. While it is easy to dismiss Pakistan’s chances without giving any consideration to them, it can not be denied that if any country has a chance to surprise the Proteas in their own home, it’s Pakistan. Armed with an array of good, young pacers, ranging from the tall Irfan to the nippy Junaid Khan, and a new generation of solid young batsman, Pakistan look set to take on the Proteas.
Let us look at how the previous year has transpired for these two teams
After completing an awe-inspiring whitewash of England, Pakistan was humiliated by England in the ODI series that followed. It was an abject performance, with Pakistan missing that spark that one usually associates with them. However, they recovered from this setback to win the Asia Cup for the first time in 12 years. Following this, Pakistan toured Sri Lanka.
This was a disappointment, however, as Pakistan lost the ODI and Test series, the first Test series loss under Misbah. Despite this, it wasn’t as bad as the score-line suggests as Pakistan faced as many as 11 incorrect decisions in the test they lost, further outlining the need for DRS. Another positive aspect of the 1-0 loss was the emergence of Junaid Khan, a young left arm bowler, reminiscent of Amir before him.
They then returned to Australia and lost the One Day Series to Australia. However, Nasir Jamshed emerged as an excellent opening option for Pakistan, playing a cool, collected and calm innings of 97 as Pakistan beat Australia in the 2nd ODI.
Their next assignment was India, but not before reaching the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup, and in the process, uncovering another gem, Raza Hasan.
In India though, Pakistan arguably made their greatest discovery. Irfan and Junaid showed what they could do in tandem with each other and wrecked what was, arguably, the strongest batting lineup in the world with a fearsome display of pace and aggression. However, the series win was dampened by a batting collapse in the final ODI, reminding how weak that facet of the team still remains.
It was a year that transformed South Africa. Gary Kirsten’s appointment as coach seemed to convert the perennial chokers into the world’s number 1 test team. They took on England in England and overcame a horrific, career ending injury to Boucher, a Kevin Pietersen special and a debut 95 by Johnny Bairstow to beat England 2-0 and take the ICC mace that symbolized their ascent to the top of the rankings.
In England, Philander continued his record breaking career to grab a few vital wickets, while Steyn and Morkel continued to deliver the goods. Their only blemish was Imran Tahir, a legspinner that seems to have been found out.
Amla and Kallis continued their prolific form, along with Smith. De Villiers missed out, along with Rudolph.
Before the tour, they went to New Zealand and found the weather as their only real opponent to victory. It was an abject performance by the Kiwis but an excellent one by the Proteas.
Their next assignment was not any easier, it was a tour to Australia. It was a tour where Australia did everything right in two matches, but could not deliver the killer punch. On the contrary, South Africa recovered from the blows and knocked out Australia in the 3rd match. An excellent partnership by Amla and Smith at over 7 an over symbolized the confidence of this team.
They are currently taking on and crushing New Zealand, an ominous sign for Pakistan.
Players to watch out for
Azhar Ali is a young and exciting talent but most importantly, he’s solid with the bat and even offers a handy leg-spin option. His success against the Proteas in Dubai and his performance in England means that he is a threat.
Nasir Jamshed is an exciting talent, who can change the state of a game in a session. His success in the Limited overs format saw his entry into the test squad and he will definitely push for a spot in the XI
Junaid Khan has been an outstanding find for Pakistan. In Sri Lanka, he bowled a spell in which he troubled Sangakara and Jayawardene on a dead SSC track. He is definitely a great threat.
Special mention for Faisal Iqbal, a big blemish by the selection committee. The lack of a fifth pacer might hurt later on, in case of injury. If he plays, his record indicated he will fail
Hashim Amla has been piling on the runs for the Proteas. He can grind it out but can also take the bowlers on as he showed in devastating fashion in the 3rd test against the Aussies.
It is arguable as to whether there is a better all rounder in history than Kallis. He keeps on getting runs and wickets for his team. There is no greater threat to Pakistan than this man.
Philander has shown that, given a good pitch, he can run through a team, knocking out Australia and New Zealand for 47 and 45 respectively. A medium pace bowler who can move it both ways, he will, arguably, be a greater threat than Steyn and Morkel on these pitches.
Battle to watch out for
Smith vs Junaid Khan will be a treat to watch for all cricket lovers. Smith has a known weakness against left arm pacers, which was brilliantly exploited by Zaheer Khan. Junaid, a nippy fast bowler will be a handful. It will be a treat to watch
South Africa’s pace battery vs Pakistan’s solid batting lineup. Can the batsman stand up or shall they be decimated? Whatever happens, it will be a cracker of a contest
I predict Pakistan to win at least one test in the series. However, even a whitewash may occur. A series win seems impossible but with Pakistan, one never knows. My heart makes me predict a 2-1 win to Pakistan.
Preview: South Africa v Pakistan Tests
Preview: South Africa v Pakistan Tests