Baby steps towards normalization resume

back icon
safari
25 Jan 2021 | 10:58 AM
authorSomesh Agarwal

Baby steps towards normalization resume

After Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, South Africa set to become the third nation to play Tests in Pakistan after a decade long hiatus

heart

Share

We enter the next phase of cricket-world embracing Pakistan into its fold yet again. Sri Lanka and Bangladesh toured to play Tests here in late 2019 and early 2020. Now, South Africa is set to become the first nation outside the subcontinent to grace a cricket-loving nation with the purest form of the game. It is the misfortune of the locals, players and cricket itself due to the times we live in that there will not be spectators present to quench their thirst for quality international cricket in Pakistan.

The sentimental value of it will ease out as the teams take the field. For Pakistan, the series will be about two things. Overcoming the whitewash suffered against New Zealand in the recently concluded away tour. And, take another step towards moulding the team to get used to the shift from slow turning tracks in the gulf to rather flat ones back home. 

For the visitors, with a squad containing very few known names, every Test is about identifying the players that can carry the legacy of the once number one Test side forward. There were some positives from their 2-0 victory over Sri Lanka at home early this year. But, there was a gaping room for improvement, especially with the bat. As for the more important World Test Championship, both sides are out of the reckoning for this edition.

Non-performers sidelined

Pakistan have made wholesale changes to their squad after the New Zealand whitewash. They have dropped as many as five players for the Tests against South Africa. These include their opener Shan Masood who has scored 33 runs in the eight innings since he scored 156 against England in their first Test of the tour. 

In addition to Masood, those missing out are their pace spearhead, Mohammad Abbas and Naseem Shah. The exclusion of Naseem is particularly surprising as the 17-year old has 12 wickets in the three Tests played in Pakistan in this decade. This is next only Shaheen Shah Afridi’s 13. Their leg-spinning all-rounder Shadab Khan continues to a thigh injury.

Apart from playing at home, the biggest boost for Pakistan comes in the form of their captain and the best batsman Babar Azam. Having missed the two Tests against New Zealand due to a fractured right thumb, he is ready to take charge of Pakistan for the first time in whites. 

The familiar challenge for the visitors

South Africa too are looking to get a lift in the form of Kagiso Rabada. Having missed the Tests against Sri Lanka, Rabada has already expressed his plans of bowling straighter lines to use reverse on the low bouncing pitches in Pakistan.

The bigger challenge for South Africa will be the ability of their batsmen to counter Pakistan’s spinners. Their experienced men in Faf du Plessis, skipper Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar and Temba Bavuma average the lowest on tracks in Asia as compared to other places in the world. Aiden Markram’s averages 10.5 in four innings in the Subcontinent while Rassie van der Dussen is yet to bat outside South Africa. Their ability to counter spin after seeing off the new ball will decide the fate of the series.

In addition to facing spin, South Africa’s other challenge is bowling it. Their lead spinner – Keshav Maharaj – has adapted himself on being a defensive spinner for conditions back home. Thus, he struggles when he has to take the role of an enforcer. The other options who might play alongside him are a two-Test experienced Tabraiz Shamsi and George Linde, who will be on debut. 

If we dig deep in history, Pakistan have won only four out of 26 Tests they have played against South Africa. Their win-loss ratio of 0.266 against the Proteas is the lowest among all Test-playing nations. With South Africa facing issues on and off the field, this series is set to be an excellent opportunity for the hosts to improve their record against their toughest opponent. But, nothing related to Pakistan cricket is as straightforward as it seems like.

Probable XIs

Pakistan – Abid Ali, Imran Butt, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam ©, Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Faheem Ashraf, Yasir Shah, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf/Hasan Ali, Sajid Khan/Nauman Ali

South Africa – Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Rassie van der Dussen, Faf du Plessis, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (c & wk), Wiaan Mulder, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Anrich Nortje 

Picture Courtesy – Pakistan Cricket Board

heart
shareGray Share
Tags
PakistanSouth AfricaMohammad Babar AzamQuinton de KockFrancois du PlessisKagiso RabadaSouth Africa tour of Pakistan, 2021

Related Articles

safari
REPORT
Hasan, Shaheen combine to hand Pakistan a 95-run victory
Chasing 370, South Africa were bowled out for 274 on the final day to hand Pakistan a 2-0 series win.
userPramod Ananth
08 Feb 2021
safari
REPORT
Markram, Van der Dussen keep South Africa in the hunt
The Proteas need 243 more runs to win on the final day to level the series
userPramod Ananth
07 Feb 2021
safari
REPORT
Linde stars for South Africa but Pakistan stretch lead to 200
The South Africa spinner was the pick of the bowlers in the second innings, having picked up three wickets so far
userPramod Ananth
06 Feb 2021
safari
ANALYSIS
Proteas look to put their subcontinent woes behind them to draw level
After an emphatic win in Karachi, Pakistan will look to seal the series 2-0 in Rawalpindi
userPramod Ananth
03 Feb 2021
safari
REPORT
Day Four: Familiar batting frailities for the visitors hand Pakistan an easy win
Apart from Markram and van der Dussen, the South Africa batsmen failed to put up a fight
userSomesh Agarwal
29 Jan 2021
safari
REPORT
Day Three: Late South Africa wickets undo day's hardwork
After a huge second-wicket stand, South Africa lost three wickets in the last eight overs to hand back the initiative
userSomesh Agarwal
28 Jan 2021
safari
OTHER
South Africa pull things back after being bundled out for 220
Pakistan were reduced to 33/4 and are still trailing by 187 runs
userPramod Ananth
26 Jan 2021
safari
NEWS
Proud to be making Test captaincy debut in my own country: Babar
Pakistan are out of the race to qualify for the WTC final at Lord's in June while South Africa have only a mathematical chance to make it
userPTI
25 Jan 2021
safari
NEWS
South Africa arrive for first Pakistan tour in 14 years
Pakistan and South Africa will play the first Test in Karachi from January 26
userAFP
16 Jan 2021
safari
OPINION
The extinction of Protea fire
The decline of South Africa cricket is a function of multiple factors. The hope for revival lies with the most successful captain in Test history.
userSomesh Agarwal
12 Jan 2021
logo
Cricket like never before
Follow us on
FacebookTwitterLinkedin
@ 2020 cricket.com | All rights reserved