Pakistan in SA
Younis to thwart Proteas?
Cape Town - If Michael Clarke is the glue, for instance, that currently binds the Australian Test batting order together, the Pakistani equivalent must be considered to be Younis Khan.
South Africa are also no strangers to near-dangerous dependence on a particular batsman, although more recently the pressure on the metronomic Jacques Kallis
has eased greatly with team-mates like Hashim Amla
, Graeme Smith
and AB de Villiers also coming to the party with admirable consistency.
It is no probably no coincidence that the tourists’ heavy defeat in the first Test against the ICC top-ranked Proteas at the Wanderers saw a reasonably rare double failure at the crease by the gnarly, 35-year-old Khan in the important No 4 spot.
The right-hander fell for a five-ball duck in the disastrous Pakistani first innings of 49 at the Bullring, smack in the middle of Dale Steyn
’s standout “six for eight” carnage.
He was also not a major contributor to their improved second knock, being dismissed by Steyn’s traditional fellow head-hunter Morne Morkel for 15.
But Khan is easily the most experienced and proven of his country’s current crop of batsmen - despite being three years shy in age terms of captain Misbah-ul-Haq - and the sort of player who seldom goes protracted periods without being influential to their cause.
He is the fourth highest Test run-scorer of all time for Pakistan, behind only Javed Miandad, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf, all of whom are no longer active.
Khan has registered 6 580 runs in 80 Tests at an average of 51, with 20 centuries and three of them against the Proteas.
His overall statistics against South Africa are decent enough (765 runs at 42.50 from 10 Tests), although like many other batsmen from the Subcontinent he is yet to really shine in our challenging conditions - his average in this country drops to 29.09 from six appearances stretching back to 2002/03.
The anchor batsman’s best Test innings yet in South Africa is 68 at Centurion in 2006/07, so a significant improvement on that - and preferably a maiden ton in the country - at Newlands could go a long way to keeping Pakistan’s series hopes alive.
After a first-innings failure in the two-day practice match against an Emerging Cape Cobras XI in the lead-up to the second Test, Khan got some valuable crease time and presumably some improved confidence in the second knock, where he notched an unbeaten 74 in a 162-minute vigil.
The next two Tests against the ruthless Proteas afford him perhaps a final opportunity, given his fairly advanced age, to notch a genuinely big innings in this particular enemy’s territory.
He can be both a delightful stroke-player and dogged source of resistance once he has his eye in, so South Africa are sure to go hard at him again initially at Newlands, knowing that if Khan is bundled out cheaply a pack-of-cards syndrome can follow.
Albeit on rather more benign surfaces, he knows what it is like to frustrate the likes of Steyn, Morkel and Kallis from prior scraps in either Pakistan itself or the neutral United Arab Emirates more recently.
Younis’s best series against South Africa undoubtedly came in the Proteas’ 2007 visit to Pakistan, a competitive, mostly high-scoring two-Test affair which Graeme Smith
’s side won 1-0.
The irrepressible Kallis was player of the series then, although Khan would not have been a long way behind because he produced consecutive second-innings scores for the often crisis-torn host nation of 126 at Karachi and 130 at Lahore.
At least one performance of reasonably similar substance from him at Newlands over the next few days might do wonders for Pakistan’s claw-back bid ...*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing