Having beaten both Australia and India in last season’s home Test series, Faf du Plessis’ South African side will be strong favourites to strengthen their position in the ICC Test Rankings against Pakistan, although the tourists are an improving side and should not be underestimated.
South Africa versus Pakistan Preview
South Africa versus Pakistan is one of the newer international rivalries in Test cricket, dating back just over 20 years. The first ever meeting between the two teams took place in January 1995, when a Brian McMillan century helped South Africa to a 324-run victory.
Since that inaugural game, South Africa has dominated the fixture, winning five of the subsequent nine Test series, with three drawn series. Pakistan’s only success came on the South African tour of the country in 2003, when Shoaib Akhtar and Danish Kaneria helped the home side to clinch the First Test in Lahore, and the tourists had to settle for a draw at Faisalabad.
The deteriorating political situation in Pakistan has meant that the last two ‘home’ series for that country have been played in the United Arab Emirates, including the latest, in 2013-14, which ended in a 1-1 draw. But the Proteas dominated the last series between these teams on South African soil in February 2013, with Graeme Smith’s side defeating a Pakistan team led by Misbah ul Haq 3-0.
Last Ten Series
October 2013 Pakistan 1 South Africa 1 in United Arab Emirates
February 2013 South Africa 3 Pakistan 0 in South Africa
November 2010 Pakistan 0 South Africa 0 (Drawn 2) in United Arab Emirates
October 2007 South Africa 1 Pakistan 0 (Drawn 1) in Pakistan
January 2007 South Africa 2 Pakistan 1 in South Africa
October 2003 Pakistan 1 South Africa 0 (Drawn 1) in Pakistan
December 2002 South Africa 2 Pakistan 0 in South Africa
February 1998 Pakistan 1 South Africa 1(Drawn 1) in Pakistan
October 1997 South Africa 1 Pakistan 0 (Drawn 2) in South Africa
South Africa go into this series as the third-ranked Test team in the world, although they’ve played very little Test cricket this year. In recent seasons, the Proteas have put in some patchy performances away from home, losing series in England last summer and Sri Lanka this year, but their home form has been more encouraging, with five consecutive series wins to their name, including a 2-1 win over India and a 3-1 series victory over Australia twelve months ago.
Having already taken over as Pakistan’s Twenty20 and One Day International captain, Sarfraz Ahmed took on the Test captaincy last September and has had some success. A drawn series against England earlier this summer was a notable achievement for a team that has usually struggled in English conditions, and they backed that up with a memorable 1-0 series win over Australia in the United Arab Emirates, where they also drew a three-Test rubber against New Zealand last month.
South Africa’s preparations for this series have been less than ideal, with a series of injuries to key players weakening the squad. The biggest loss is pace bowler Vernon Philander, who will miss the first Test on Boxing Day with a thumb fracture, but they will also be without fellow quick Lungi Ngidi. That leaves only three fit front line fast bowlers in Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Duanne Olivier, though they will hope to have Philander back for the Second Test. Uncapped batsman Zubayr Hamza is also in line to make his South African Test debut.
Opening batsman Dean Elgar will captain South Africa in the third and final Test against Pakistan
Pakistan’s opener Fakhar Zaman will be missing for the First Test as he recovers from a knee injury, but Imam ul-Haq and Shan Masood are viable options to open the batting, and Azhar Ali has batted at the top of the order in the past. Fast bowlers Mohammad Abbas and Mohammad Amir are back in the squad and are likely to form part of a five-man pace bowling attack with Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi and the all-rounder Faheem Ashraf, while leg spinners Shadab Khan and Yasir Khan could also play.
South Africa are huge favourites to win the series, but while it’s hard to argue against them being the stronger side, odds of 1/4 are not all that tempting. Of particular concern for South Africa backers will be the recent memory of how the Proteas struggled against spin bowling in Sri Lanka, and while conditions at home will be far less tricky, the tourists do have a couple of potentially dangerous leggies in Shadab and Yasir who could cause the home side some problems.
The high turnover of players in the Pakistan set-up means it can be difficult to get a handle on just how good the side is, but the general rule is that they are at their most dangerous when they’re written off. Given how well they coped with supposedly unsuitable conditions in England, it could be risky to assume they will be blown away on South African pitches, and while they won’t win the series, they are capable of snatching a surprise one-off victory along the way.
* Please note – odds mentioned above are subject to change, so always check the latest published odds to be fully certain before betting.
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