JOHANNESBURG – Pakistan are keen to follow in the footsteps of India by ending their series against South Africa on a high at the Wanderers.
Virat Kohli’s team shook off the disappointment of losing the Test series against the Proteas in SA last summer to win the last match on a Wanderers track that was subsequently deemed dangerous by the ICC. The bounce of that pitch was vicious, but the Indians adapted better than the home side and ran out comfortable winners.
It’s a victory Kohli has regularly referenced as having boosted the Indian team’s belief that they could be successful on seaming, bouncy and fast tracks, and indirectly played a role in their triumphant tour of Australia.
Pakistan opener Imam-ul-Haq said yesterday that while he didn’t watch that Test, he and his teammates could draw inspiration from what their sub-continental neighbours achieved.
“India despite also losing the series, won the Johannesburg Test so that gives us some inspiration.’’
That may seem far-fetched, not just because the format is different, but also the personnel.
Misbah-ul-Haq (no relation) captained that team and although Asad Shafiq was in that squad, he only played one match.
Still, so little has gone right for Pakistan in this series that you can’t blame Imam for clutching at straws. It’s been a tough few weeks for the tourists, especially their batsmen, who have battled to come to terms with the lively pitches in SA.
“The wickets are so difficult here, it’s very hard to start,” Imam said. It’s thus a tribute to them that of the top four run-scorers in the series, three are from Pakistan; Shan Masood is at the top of the list with 189 runs, while Babar Azam and Shafiq also feature in that top four.
“As a batting unit we’re feeling a bit more confident because some of the batsmen have some runs to their name.”
Pakistan’s improvement in the second innings, especially in the second Test at Newlands where Asad made 88, have led to questions in Pakistan about whether their preparation for the series has been right.
Meanwhile, Dean Elgar will captain the Proteas in the last Test owing to Faf Du Plessis’ suspension. It is the second time the left-hand opener will lead the team having done so at Lord’s in 2017.
Twenty-three-year-old Zubayr Hamza is expected to make his debut for the Proteas in the final Test as Du Plessis’ replacement. Aiden Markram will undergo a fitness test this morning to assess his readiness for tomorrow’s start.
Should he be declared unfit his place will be taken by Cape Cobras opener Pieter Malan.@shockerhess