Pakistan in SA
SA likely to face steelier test
Graeme Smith (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - As with earlier 2012/13 tourists New Zealand, South Africa ought to find Pakistan a rather tougher proposition in the limited-overs portion of their visit than they were in the Tests.
Misbah-ul-Haq’s five-day troops (though some wags might be cruelly tempted to more pertinently brand them either three- or four-day) were exposed to an ever greater degree than anticipated as Graeme Smith
’s No 1-ranked Proteas blitzed them 3-0 in the Test series.
But just as the Black Caps showed some praiseworthy “bounceback-ability” by upsetting their hosts 2-1 in the ODI series after a 2-0 pummelling in the Tests, Pakistan probably feel that the shorter the format, the better the likelihood that the teams will be more evenly matched.
The next few days feature a short, two-match Twenty20 series - Kingsmead on Friday evening and then SuperSport Park on Sunday afternoon - which will basically serve in many ways as preparation for the five-match ODI element to quickly follow.
The latter series can safely be described as the priority for both teams, given that the ICC Champions Trophy, another opportunity to try to earn silverware from a world get-together, will be their next challenge in the English early summer.
South Africa and Pakistan have in common at present that they lie roughly mid-table in both the T20 and ODI rankings: the Proteas are fifth and fourth respectively, and the Pakistanis sixth in each.
That situation ought to at least give the visitors, whose limited-overs ranks still include plenty of customers perhaps spooked by the mauling in the Tests, some belief that they can prosper in what remains of their safari here.
Pakistan will also welcome the injection of veteran campaigners like Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal and the dangerously unpredictable all-rounder Shahid “Boom Boom” Afridi, although captaincy of the T20 squad switches to Mohammad Hafeez, who had a wretched time at the top of the Test order against the Proteas, registering 43 runs across six innings at a flimsy average of 7.16.
The South African team for the T20 clashes, to be led by Faf du Plessis and looking more and more detached these days from the smooth-firing Test combination, will be seeking revenge for Pakistan’s nasty habit of derailing their aspirations at key stages of ICC World Twenty20 tournaments.
They will also be aware that these particular foes have a much more decent record than they do at those events: Pakistan were losing finalists at the maiden tournament, hosted by South Africa, in 2007, and winners two years later in England. The Proteas have never even sampled a final.
In relatively rare bilateral T20 series or matches, however, the South Africans easily have the upper hand.
In the once-off T20 meeting on the 2006/07 Pakistani tour of our shores, the Proteas positively slaughtered the visitors at the Wanderers, reaching a sub-standard target of 130 in only 11.3 overs and without loss of a wicket.
Smith, who takes a breather from the T20s before returning to plans for the ODI series, lashed 71 not out on that occasion and the rather forgotten Loots Bosman
- though he still plies his pinch-hitting trade for the Knights at domestic T20 level - an unbeaten 53.
When these teams locked horns in the format a little more recently, during the Proteas’ visit to the neutral United Arab Emirates in 2010/11, South Africa won each of the two games relatively comfortably.*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing