Johannesburg - Pakistan's batsmen will seek form when they
open their tour of South Africa with a three-day match against a South African
Invitation XI at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Wednesday.
It is the only game for the tourists before the first of
three Tests starts in Centurion on December 26.
Pakistan twice suffered fourth-innings batting collapses in
losing a recent Test series against New Zealand in the United Arab Emirates.
Both captain Sarfraz Ahmed and coach Mickey Arthur
acknowledged on arrival in South Africa that posting competitive totals was
crucial if they are to match the hosts in what is shaping as a battle between
two teams with strong bowling attacks.
With the warm-up match clashing with the resumption of South
Africa's four-day franchise competition, the Invitation XI is drawn from the
country's second-tier provincial competition.
The opposition is unlikely to be especially challenging, but
it is an opportunity for the Pakistanis to get used to local conditions at a
ground just 60 kilometres (37 miles) from the venue for the first Test.
Arthur, who coached South Africa from 2005 until 2010, told
journalists he believed his young batsmen will cope better with conditions in
South Africa than the low, slow pitches of the UAE.
"There are some very talented young batsmen there. They
don't stand on leg stump anymore. Our batsmen get to off stump, they cover the
bounce, they cover the pace and they cover the swing."
Even so, the Tests are likely to be a major challenge in a
country where Pakistan have won only two Tests while losing nine on five tours.
South Africa's bowling will be spearheaded by Kagiso Rabada
and fit-again Dale Steyn, although the hosts will be without the retired Morne
Morkel and Lungi Ngidi, who has a long-term injury.
Vernon Philander is a serious doubt for the first Test
because of a hairline fracture on his right thumb.
Pakistan have their own injury concerns, with fast bowler
Mohammad Abbas and opening batsman Fakhar Zaman undergoing treatment in a bid
to get them fit for the first Test.
The Tests will be followed by five one-day internationals in
which both teams will be looking to settle on combinations ahead of the Cricket
World Cup in England and Wales, starting on May 30.
There will also be three Twenty20 internationals - a format
in which Pakistan top the international rankings.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain/wkt), Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Haris Sohail, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Yasir Shah
19-21: SA Invitation XI, Benoni
26-30: First Test, Centurion
3-7: Second Test, Cape Town
11-15: Third Test, Johannesburg
19: First ODI, Port Elizabeth
22: Second ODI, Durban
25: Third ODI, Centurion
27: Fourth ODI, Johannesburg
30: Fifth ODI, Cape Town
1: First T20 international, Cape Town
3: Second T20 international, Johannesburg
6: Third T20 international, Centurion