Cape Town - Pakistan have a decent bowling attack which could give South Africa’s batsmen a bit of trouble in the first Test starting in Joburg on Friday, but their own batting will need to front up in conditions unlike those experienced on their home pitches.
Only four of their batsmen have played in South Africa, and one of those, the left-handed opener Taufeeq Umar, is unlikely to feature in the first Test if the side picked for the warm-up match against an SA Invitational XI is anything to go by.
It’s been suggested in Pakistan that, despite his inexperience, 23-year-old Nasir Jamshed, who is yet to be capped in Tests, will open alongside Mohammed Hafeez at the Wanderers.
Both of them made half-centuries in the warm-up game in East London, and given Taufeeq’s recent struggles in Tests - he’s scored just two half-centuries in his last 12 innings - the tourists appear to have settled on their opening pair.
Their most experienced batsmen, Younis Khan - who was part of the side that beat South Africa in Port Elizabeth in 2007 on Pakistan’s previous visit - has also struggled here, averaging just 33.88 in five Tests.
“They are something different to New Zealand, they like playing their shots, because of the wickets they grow up on,” said South African fast bowler Vernon Philander.
An aggressive approach from the Pakistan players would suit Philander.
“A moving ball is a difficult thing to play and hopefully we can get the ball moving. For me, it’s good news if they come out attacking,” he added.
Philander skipped the second Test against New Zealand with a hamstring strain from which he is fully recovered, and Amla had a quad strain which saw him absent from the last two ODIs against the Kiwis. Amla is expected to be fit by Friday.
On the bowling front, Pakistan have been careful about not wanting to get too excited about the seamer-friendly conditions in this country. Skipper Misbah ul-Haq says it’s important to find the right lengths if they are going to be successful in South Africa.
“In South African conditions, I find that it’s not the guys who are quick, but those who are quite accurate who (are more dangerous),” Amla said on Tuesday. “What helps sub-continent teams is that they usually bowl on flat tracks, so when they get a wicket that assists them, they have the discipline (to take advantage of helpful conditions).”
Pakistan tend to keep fast bowlers rolling off the assembly line and, for this year’s tour, they’ve included Junaid Khan, who impressed during the recent one-day series in India, and the towering Mohammed Irfan (2.15m tall).
But South Africa haven’t lost in their last 12 Tests and Pakistan will have to find a way to put the hosts’ stellar line-up under pressure.