PAK vs. SA – 2nd Test Preview

After succumbing to their 8th consecutive Test loss in the subcontinent, South Africa find themselves 1-0 down in the two-match series against Pakistan.

A valiant bowling effort from the Proteas, and gutsy batting from Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen aside, the Proteas batting fell into the same patterns we’ve come to know and dislike – batting collapses. Losing 7-87 in the first innings and 9-70 in the second is simply not good enough to win Test matches, and the quicker they come to this realisation, the better.

Captain Quinton de Kock, doesn’t know how to stop batting collapses from occurring, saying,

“if we knew how to fix them, we wouldn’t be doing it in the first place”

The answer is simple – have accountability and don’t throw your wickets away.

Dean Elgar admitted to exactly that after the Proteas first innings saying,

“there were a few very soft dismissals….if you apply yourself, there are no real demons in the wicket”

It is frustrating to listen to the same words being repeated after every Test, or series. Words are cheap. When are they going to practice what they preach?

Pakistan were the better team in the first Test, and fully deserved their win. But they find themselves with the problem South Africa themselves had for a number of years prior to Markram – solid openers. With a highest score of 26 in his last 6 Test innings, far below his Test average of 39, Abid Ali needs to start performing.

Pakistan could opt to change their opening partnership and bring in Kamran Ghulam for the second Test, who has been in great touch in domestic cricket. But after giving Imran Butt an opportunity, they would be best suited to give him a proper run in the team. Pakistan are therefore unlikely to change a winning team.

Enough words cannot be said to congratulate and admire the batting and attitude of Fawad Alam, who after a decade away from the team, has come back and harbors no resentment but instead is happy to just score runs for his country. Pakistan will be hopeful of more runs from him in the second Test.

One positive South Africa could look to capitalize on is the fact that Keshav Maharaj dismissed Babar Azam twice in the first Test – could Babar be Maharaj’s bunny, or was Babar just rusty after a lengthy injury break? There’s an important psychological component to Test cricket, and Babar will be well aware Maharaj has dismissed him twice already. it might be worth Maharaj being brought into the attack as soon as Babar comes to the crease in the second Test, and see what happens.

The one Test played at Rawalpindi in recent times was against Bangladesh in 2020, which saw Pakistan’s pace attack thrive. Pundits have also agreed that pace is more of a factor, thereby suggesting one spinner may be sufficient. To this end, South Africa could drop George Linde, who only bowled 16 overs in the first Test, compared to Maharaj’s 33, on a pitch that was offering spin, for Wiaan Mulder, and keep their 3-pronged pace attack of Rabada, Ngidi and Nortje. If they require another spin option, they could utilise Markram or Dean Elgar in this role, who even after the blow to his hand, is confident he’ll be fit for the second Test.

After seeing South Africa struggle against spin however, Pakistan will be hopeful the pitch does offer enough spin for their bowlers to capitalize on.

With the series on the line, this proves to be a must-watch game. The second Test starts on February 4th at 7am – live on SuperSport.

Posted in The Popping Crease.