Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Confident South Africa aim for series win

CAPE TOWN: After a crushing victory in the Boxing Day Test, hosts South Africa will look to begin their 2019 on a high with a series-clinching win against a demotivated Pakistan side.

The Boxing Day Test brought joy for South Africa , who beat Pakistan in every aspect of the game en route to a convincing six-wicket victory in the first Test, a result that sent some jitters in the Pakistan camp.

In a low-scoring affair on a tough pitch, South Africa bowled Pakistan out for sub-200 scores and chased down the target of 149 runs in the fourth innings. Dean Elgar, Temba Bavuma and Hashim Amla all got fifties while Duanne Olivier finished with 10 wickets in the match.

That Olivier was only playing a support role to Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada speaks of the potency of this South African attack, which operated in the absence of two of their frontline pacers, Vernon Philander and Lungi Ngidi.

Of the last two, Philander is expected to be back in the line-up after he missed the first Test with a thumb injury, and that will add another dimension to the fast bowling unit. Olivier’s performance in the first Test was so good, that Faf du Plessis has confirmed his spot for the second one. It will be interesting to see what combination the hosts go with.

As it is, the visitors did not find it easy with the bat, enduring a collapse from 103/3 to 190 all out in the second innings, thereby squandering the opportunity to build a sizeable target after falling behind in the first innings by 42 runs.

However, fifties from Babar Azam in the first innings, and Shan Masood and Imam-ul-Haq in the second, helped lift Pakistani spirits in a game that saw many of their batsmen failing to cross single digits, including their captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, who bagged a pair.

The bowling fared well in the first innings, though, with comeback man Mohammad Amir picking up four wickets, as did Shaheen Afridi, both in the first innings. And although they conceded in excess of three runs per over, the wickets ensured that the South African first-innings lead did not burgeon.

Coming into the New Year’s Test, it’s the batting that needs to fire for the visitors and they need to put up a big score at a venue in South Africa where it’s conceivably easiest to bat. Pakistan will be desperate to turn their fortunes around, having lost to New Zealand in the UAE and now on the brink of another series loss.

Dean Elgar, the gritty opener, puts a price on his wicket and has the ability to bat time and tire the opposition bowlers down. He had form on his side, too, with a fifty in the first game and will look to give South Africa a solid start against a good Pakistani bowling attack.

Imam-ul-Haq , the young left-hander has grown from strength to strength ever since making his international debut last year and his half-century in the second innings where there was a deficit to overcome spoke of his mental resolve and the ability to handle pressure.

A warm, sunny day with temperatures ranging between 27 to 18°C is expected in Cape Town on day one of the Test. There’s no forecast for rain for the first two days, but some rain is expected on the final three days of the Test. In the last Test played at the venue, Elgar got a hundred and South Africa posted two 300-plus scores in the match against Australia and won by a massive margin of 322 runs. The surface is expected to assist batting.

SQUADS

SOUTH AFRICA: Faf du Plessis (c), Hashim Amla, Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar, Zubayr Hamza, Keshav Maharaj, Aiden Markram, Duanne Olivier, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Dane Paterson, Vernon Philander

PAKISTAN: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Mohammad Rizwan, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Abbas, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi.

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