Abu Dhabi - The top-ranked Proteas are looking to stretch their unbeaten
record away from home when the two-Test series against Pakistan begins on
The Proteas have won eight and drawn three Test series since losing away to
Sri Lanka in 2006 - with one of the draws coming against Pakistan in the United
Arab Emirates three years ago.
Fit-again South Africa captain Graeme Smith said on Saturday that he knows
they have the ability to do well in all conditions around the world.
"I think every time you do overcome winning away from home, there's a
certain strength that you get as a team and as an individual," Smith said.
"It's hard to put your finger on what that actually is."
Smith said he doesn't expect much change in the slow nature of the pitch at
Sheikh Zayed Stadium which saw AB de Villiers scoring career-best 278 not out
during the last series and overtook his captain's Test-best score of 277.
"To me, (the pitch) looks pretty similar in many ways," he said.
"The wickets here certainly on the first morning seem to have something
little bit in them, there's a little bit of swing and seam movement and then
they seem to get really good."
South Africa's top order is likely to be tested by a three-pronged Pakistani
spin attack - led by star off-spinner Saeed Ajmal and two left-arm slow
bowlers, Abdul Rehman and uncapped Zulfiqar Babar.
Ajmal made little impression in the last series three years ago when he took
three wickets in two Test matches.
"We've had a good success (against Ajmal) and that's nice to
know," Smith said. "Last time we played Ajmal really well and I think
he ended up missing a few games on the tour."
"He's a key performer for Pakistan and he's a world class performer...
we've had some good chats about him and all the Pakistani bowlers and how we
would like to play them."
The only worry for Smith is that this is the Proteas first away Test series
"You've got to be realistic that we haven't played for the last six
months and it might take us time to get up to the standards that we were last
season when we've been playing lot of cricket," Smith said. "It might
take us little bit of time to get to that, but we've certainly covered all our
bases in our preparation.
"Our goal is to put Pakistan under pressure, and I think that's
something we've been able to do. We've been able to handle pressure very well
and exert lots of pressure on the oppositions so that's something we would like
to do over the five days."
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq agreed with Smith that it will be a big
challenge for Ajmal to run through the likes of Jacques Kallis, Smith, De
Villiers, Faf du Plessis and JP Duminy, also returning to the squad after
recovering from an Achilles injury.
Ajmal has some good memories of the UAE when he grabbed 24 wickets against
England last year in a 3-0 rout of the then-top ranked side.
"He (Ajmal) was new to England and that's why they struggled against
him," Misbah said. "South African batsmen have played him more,
played him well in ODIs as well so it's a big challenge for Ajmal and he will
have to lift his bowling because he is up against a team who plays him
Pakistan's batsmen had a good run in warm-up matches, with uncapped openers
Ahmed Shahzad and Shan Masood both scoring half centuries against South Africa
and Younis Khan warming up for test match with a century against the UAE.
Either Shahzad or Masood is expected to partner Khurram Manzoor in the first
test and Misbah said it will be tough to decide which opener to drop.
"It's a tough choice because both the guys are batting well at the
moment, but I think it's good for our team," he said.
And Misbah wanted his team-mates to forget the humiliation in South Africa
and try to prove that they could compete against a good side.
"It's not good to be in the past, always focus the present and
future," he said. "No doubt that it's a tough series, we are playing
against a good team but it's an opportunity to perform against a good team and
prove that we are also a good side."