South Africa v Pakistan preview

Later today the first Test between South Africa and Pakistan gets underway in Johannesburg. It will be the first time Pakistan have played Test cricket in almost seven months, their last series being the 0-1 defeat away to Sri Lanka. The second Test of this series will also be notable as it will be Graeme Smith’s 100th Test as captain.

It’s hard to see past a probable South African victory. The Proteas aren’t unstoppable (they nearly came unstuck against Australia), but they are a good side and in good form after their thrashing of New Zealand. Their bowling attack is fully fit again and I think the Pakistan batsmen will really struggle with the pace and bounce. They don’t play a lot of Test cricket at the best of times and still less in conditions like they will find in South Africa. They haven’t helped themselves by playing only one warmup either. They should bat better than New Zealand did, but especially in the first Test I think they will struggle to be competitive. It’s possible that they will settle in as the series goes on, but such are the South African bowlers that it’s hard to see them really in a position of strength with the bat at any point.

With this in mind, Pakistan’s bowlers will need to keep South Africa from building big partnerships, because even one could put the match out of reach. Pakistan’s strength is their bowling and their seamers should be able to do some damage to the South African batting lineup. But we have seen many times from the Proteas that they can come back from a collapse and put themselves in a winning position. Pakistan do have the ability to bowl South Africa cheaply once or twice, but I don’t think they will be able to do so with the consistency they will need. I think they will need to really go for it in the first Test and hope to put some unease in the home camp.

Pakistan are not a terrible side by any means, but everything really has to go their way for them to win just a Test and even if South Africa slip up a bit I don’t see a way for Pakistan to win the series. There’s no way to account for the weather, but because the bowlers on both sides are good I don’t think there will be any draws either. My prediction is a 3-0 whitewash for South Africa; it is a bit harsh on Pakistan, but the conditions are against them and against as good a side as South Africa I think ‘competitive’ is about all Pakistan will do.

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