The first Test of the series between Pakistan and South Africa was totally one-sided, and the latter team would have been extremely disappointed because of the same. The fact that the loss came inside four days would have peeved the South Africans further. Most disappointingly, they would have been dejected knowing very well that they were capable of performing a lot better. In a two-Test series, it is extremely difficult for a side that has lost the first Test to comeback. But, South Africa would be banking on the fact that they are fighters to the core.
The experienced hands let the side down in the first Test, and they will be expected to rise to the occasion. Unfortunately, Hashim Amla, South Africa’s only centurion in the opening Test won’t be available owing to the birth of his child, which would mean the other senior batsmen would be under additional pressure. The fact that they hadn’t played Test cricket for a long while definitely went against the South African batsmen as they looked rusty. Even the warm-up game prior to the series didn’t make a difference.
Skipper Graeme Smith failed in both the innings, but he looked better in the second essay when the match was well out of South Africa’s grasp. The time he spent in the middle would have given the veteran left-hander some confidence. As it is, Smith doesn’t need much to get back at his best. He will be raring to lead from the front with the bat again in the second Test. Smith’s opening partner Alviro Petersen also did not do much in the game. He has been opening the innings with Smith for a while now, and it is about time he started performing more consistently abroad.
Significantly, their great all-rounder Jacques Kallis had a poor game. He failed with the bat in both the innings, and went wicketless as well. Over the course of his career, Kallis has rarely had such a forgettable Test, so things can only be expected to get better for him. Among the other experienced players in the eleven, most did well in phases, which did not help the team’s cause greatly. JP Duminy got a half- century in the first innings, AB de Villiers go one in the second while Faf du Plessis only registered single-figure scores.
Spin was expected to be South Africa’s biggest bane in the series. And while Saeed Ajmal and Zulfiqar Babar were expectedly among the big wickets in both the innings, the Proteas batsmen surprisingly were found out against the pacers as well. Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan got their fair share of wickets. To perform well in the second Test, they would need to show a significant improvement with the bat against pace as well as spin. As for South Africa’s own bowling performance, they should take inspiration from the fact that they made Pakistan look pretty ordinary during a short chase.
--By A Cricket Analyst