Where did we go wrong? The South Africans will be seeking answers after the spring in their step was snapped by what was a humiliating seven-wicket loss to Pakistan in the first Test in Abu Dhabi this week.
That loss to a team ranked sixth in the world ended an unbeaten run of 15 matches – 10 wins and five draws – by the world’s No1-ranked side.
The Proteas will now attempt to level the series against a side that emerged from a 3-0 drubbing in South Africa and a shock second-Test loss to minnows, Zimbabwe, in September when they head for Dubai for the start of the second Test on Wednesday.
To be fair, a lot went wrong and there’s little time for the Proteas to put things right.
To begin with, there’s Graeme Smith’s admission that when teams arrive here or in the sub-continent there’s a degree of stress.
No doubt it is difficult to play away from home and away from the comforts of the bouncy wickets that the Wanderers, Kingsmead and Newlands offered their bowlers in recent series.
“Every time you come to the sub-continent as a Western nation you always have a degree of stress,” Smith said.
“Pakistan have played well in these conditions of late, and outplayed us, so it’s very disappointing.”
Pakistan would obviously play well in these conditions – this is their home away from home – and they relish the prospect of having crumbling and turning wickets the way the South Africans do when they “order” bouncy tracks.
Being No1 in the world, South Africa should have been super-charged to blast away at a side that have been unpredictable in the past decade because of all the problems back home.
Ahead of the second Test, though, the winning mentality needs to be put back on track.
Smith spoke of redemption. He is keen to find a way back into the series – being 1-0 down is not the best place to be when there’s just one match remaining. He said the squad would need to reflect and plan. And there would be much deliberation on tactics.
“We need to deal with those things. We need to have good cricket discussions, have good thoughts in terms of planning and how you can be better going into the next Test from a tactical and skills perspective,” he said.
What South Africa lacked was a lot of guts. Pakistan’s legendary former quick bowler, Waqar Younis, said this was a glaring absence when they batted and they need to get that resolved ahead of the Dubai Test.
With the possibility of Pakistan’s third spinner, Abdur Rehman, returning for the second Test, the South African batsmen could be put under further pressure on a Dubai track which is going to be low, slow and possibly spin more than in Abu Dhabi.
As for South Africa’s spin, it was non existent as Robin Peterson tried hard, but the Pakistanis are just so good against the slow bowlers.
A change is likely and Imran Tahir, who was battered and pulverised by the Australians last year, could offer something with his leg-spinners.
He seems to have recovered from the past debacle and there’s nothing better than trying to salvage the second Test and, of course, the series. - Saturday Star