Proteas set to unleash spin in first Test against Pakistan
JOHANNESBURG - Proteas head coach, Mark Boucher confirmed that South Africa will pick at least two spinners in the starting XI for the first Test against Pakistan that starts in Karachi on Tuesday.
Having assessed conditions at the National Stadium, Boucher felt that the pitch would definitely assist spinners, while he also reckons that reverse swing will play less of a role than South Africa anticipated.
“Having gone to the ground, the outfield was very green, even moist,” Boucher said Monday. “I don’t know how big a weapon reverse swing is going to be. I looked at the wickets and judging by the way Pakistan have selected their squad with so many spinners, it’s definitely going to turn.”
As part of the stringent security measures, South Africa have done most of their preparation ahead of the first Test at the Karachi Gymkhana, which is across the road from the team’s hotel. Kagiso Rabada said last week that the surfaces at the training venue, meant reverse swing would play a part in the opening Test, but those conditions differed a great deal from what the team encountered at the National Stadium when the tourists got a first look at the pitch at the weekend.
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“The conditions are definitely a big thing,” said Boucher. “Not only is the weather a lot cooler, but the conditions are not what I became used to (when touring here) in the past. There lush green outfields.”
“We’ll definitely pick more than one spinner. We believe that we have different options within the squad. We have the mindset that we don’t mind doing something different to what has happened in the past. We can see with their selection, and the conditions at the ground that they are going with a spin mindset. We have guys here who we believe will do a job here, especially in Karachi. That might change (for the second Test) in Rawalpindi.”
South Africa haven’t always picked starting teams based on conditions in the sub-continent. The most notable recent example being the second Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo two years ago, when, greeted with conditions that were clearly going to favour spin, they picked just Keshav Maharaj. Sri Lanka chose three frontline spinners, and Maharaj ended up bowling 81 overs in the game.
He’ll have help this time, with George Linde - like Maharaj a slow left orthodox spinner - and Tabraiz Shamsi in the mix to start.
For Maharaj, who will be playing his 33rd Test, the match will provide an opportunity to prove his value to the Proteas having endured a season thusfar in which he’s been required to do very little with the ball because of the seamer friendly conditions in South Africa. “(Kesh) is very hungry. He didn’t have the best time when we were in India the last time, so there something for him to prove here.
“He’s been working on a few technical things, and has come on in leaps and bounds, so I’m looking forward to see how that works out for him.”
Boucher stressed though, that it was important to get the balance of the bowling attack correct. “On flat wickets you want pace through the air - which we have. You need to then balance it out with who will do a containing role. We have that covered as well, we also have the attacking option with the spin.”
“We are definitely not going into the game just to contain, we want to pick up 20 wickets in these conditions. We are not going to die wondering in these conditions.”
The match is set to start at 7am SA time on Tuesday.
South Africa (from) - Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Rassie van der Dussen, faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock (capt), Temba Bavuma, Wiaan Mulder, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi, Lutho Sipamla, Beuran Hendricks, Dwaine Pretorius, Kyle Verreynne, Sarel Erwee, Keegan Petersen, George Linde, Daryn Dupavillon, Marco Jansen
Pakistan (from) - Abid Ali and Imran Butt, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (capt), Fawad Alam, Saud Shakeel, Faheem Ashraf and Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Yasir Shah, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Tabish Khan