Monday Jan 25, 2021
Pakistan are all set to host South Africa for the first Test in Karachi tomorrow after a break of 14 long years. While the hosts made major changes to their squad following the heavy series defeats against New Zealand recently, there are five reasons Pakistan might still have an edge over their guests against whom they have an inferior record.
1) Proteas’ inexperience in the country:
South Africa last toured Pakistan more than a decade ago in 2007 when not a single player in their 21-member squad had even made their debut. The players, who are mostly oblivious of the playing conditions, will likely require time to adjust.
While Proteas’ head coach Mark Boucher believes that the wicket at National Stadium Karachi (NSK) will not be as spin-friendly compared to other sub-continent nations, there are rumours circulating that the home side is developing a heavy spinning track. This added element of uncertainty will only hamper Proteas’ already struggling planning strategy.
2) Home advantage:
Pakistan have named nine uncapped players in their 20-member squad, mostly based on their recent domestic performances. As the recently concluded first-class tournament Quaid-e-Azam Trophy was played entirely in Karachi; the players know the conditions pretty well. The two new spinners named in the squad, Sajid Khan and Nauman Ali, were the top wicket-takers in the domestic season. If the home side does develop a turning track, the Proteas batsmen will have to watch out for the two, along with Yasir Shah.
3) Pressure on team management:
The team management faced major backlash upon their return following the recent series losses against New Zealand. The PCB cricket committee has made it clear that the future of the current coaching staff depends on the home series against South Africa. Given it’s do or die situation for Misbah-ul-Haq and co, the added pressure will ensure they take extreme measures in hope to yield better outcomes.
While Misbah dismissed the idea of New Zealand series having any impact on team’s preparation against South Africa in a press conference on Sunday, the lack of confidence in his tone about his future with the team suggested otherwise.
4) Return of key players:
One thing Pakistan missed in its series against New Zealand was the absence of team’s top player and newly appointed captain Babar Azam, due to injury. His return adds a lot of strength to the home side. While the batsman has only played three matches at home, he has managed to score a century in each one of them. The three centuries Babar scored at home in last two years are at the same venues where Pakistan will host Proteas for the two Tests so he will definitely be on opponent's radar.
Along with Babar, Hasan Ali will also make a return to the national side. The bowler had an exceptionally well domestic season and ended up bagging the man of the tournament award in QeA Trophy. He got 43 wickets in nine matches at an average of 20.06, most by any fast bowler this season. While Hasan last played red-ball cricket two years ago, his remarkable performance shows his eager to make a return to international cricket.
5) Recent record:
Albeit South African players are in high spirits after their recent 2-0 victory against Sri Lanka at home earlier this month, the fact that they beat an average, injury-stricken side at home makes it a little ordinary. On the other end, Pakistan lost to New Zealand, the number one ranked Test side, at their home in the absence of its key players and with a squad having little to no practice.
South Africa’s Test record in last three years also suggests they are not the same dominating force in the format that they used to be. In 23 matches played, the team has lost 12 games while won the other 11 with no draws. However, the team lost all its away matches played in sub-continent; struggling especially against spin in India.
The stats were taken from ESPNcricinfo.