As good as South Africa were (and take nothing away from them, Dale Steyn in particular was outstanding) Pakistan left a bit to be desired with the bat. They had given themselves an opportunity by bowling South Africa out relatively cheaply, but utterly squandered it and looked generally clueless for good measure. They went into the series with only one warmup match and without playing a Test in seaming conditions for two years and it showed. England were rightly criticised for not having enough warmup time before they were whitewashed by Pakistan in the UAE a year ago and now Pakistan have made that exact same mistake. With the South African bowlers already on song and very dangerous, Pakistan barely had a chance.
South Africa actually had a chance to enforce the follow-on, which is saying a lot after they were bowled out for 253. I think Graeme Smith was correct to do so though; South Africa had a lot of momentum it was true, but the lead was still ‘only’ two hundred. It’s pretty common now for teams to not enforce the follow-on when the lead is under 250 and even though this was a special case with the scores so small, I think the reasoning still applies. It’s doubtful that Pakistan would have put South Africa under any pressure, but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility and there was plenty of time for South Africa to simply bat Pakistan out of the match, which they did. It’s easy to see it as another example of Smith’s inherent negativity, and strictly speaking it is, but I think in this case it was justified negativity and certainly it did not hurt his side’s chances.
Pakistan have a two day match against a Western Province Invitational XI ahead of the second Test and they must use it to get some time in the middle for their batsmen. They need to at least get comfortable enough in the conditions to make South Africa work for their wickets in the next two Tests. Pakistan’s bowers can cause damage to the South African batting order, but at least right now their batsmen don’t look like being able to back them up.
The Test was also much hyped as Smith’s hundredth as captain. Technically that is true, but one of those hundred Tests was the farcical ‘ICC Super Test’ from 2005. There is no conceivable justification for that match counting as an official Test and many do not count it at all. Being named captain of that side especially is nothing to celebrate; any member of the XI could have done so for all the difference it would have made. It was worlds away from the considered selection of a national Test captain and should be completely discounted along with the rest of the statistics from that waste of time.
What is particularly annoying about all the misplaced hype is that Smith’s true hundredth Test as captain is the second Test and will go all but unnoticed. Even if one thinks that the Super Test should count, the second Test is still Smith’s hundredth time captaining his country which is a major achievement and should get a lot more recognition than it will. Unfortunately, Cricket South Africa have spoiled the celebrations by staging them too soon.