Team Green on a Mission

Pakistan embarked on its recent visit to South Africa with the aim of surpassing their predecessors by winning test series in South Africa. Pakistan other than the one off test they played during the 1994-95 series so far have played three full fledge test series in South Africa. They were competitive during the test series played during 1997-98 & 2006-07 seasons but were ordinary in the series played during 2002-03 season.

Pakistan team when departing for South African tour in 1997-98 was jittery as they were beaten at home by the same opponent few months ago and not many critics were optimistic of team’s chances on the tour. Irrespective of what everyone was thinking, Azhar Mehmood had other ideas. He stood as a wall in front of South African bowlers in testing conditions during the series scoring two prolific centuries in pressure situation. First test of the 1997-98-series in discussion was played at Johannesburg. Few days before the first test, Pakistan’s current bowling Coach Mohammad Akram along with couple of other players were attacked by muggers outside a restaurant and Akram who was sure to be part of playing XI was forced to miss the test.

First test played at Johannesburg ended in a draw. Weather and gutsy batting by Mark Boucher & Pat Symcox for South Africa & by Azhar Mehmood & Moin Khan from Pakistan was pivotal in this result.

Series moved to Durban for the second test where Pakistan achieves a memorable victory by 29 runs to take lead in the series. Centuries by Azhar Mehmood & Saeed Anwar and splendid bowling by Mushtaq Ahmed, Shoaib Akhtar & Waqar Younis form the nucleus for Pakistan’s first ever test match victory in South Arica.

Moving to the third test match hopes were high that Pakistan will thwart South Africa’s challenge and will go on to win the series. Pakistan’s team was bolstered by the inclusion of Wasim Akram for this match. Pakistan have South Africa on the ropes at the end of first day and second day of the test washed away. Pakistan able to wrap up South Africa’s first innings quickly on the third day but a mysterious batting collapse allowed South Africa to attain a big lead. South Africa from this point onwards dictates the proceedings and comfortably won the test match to level the series.
Pakistan’s tour to South Africa in 2002-03 turned out to be a nightmare where they failed in every department to meekly surrender the two match series 2-0.

Pakistan made another bid to win test series in South Africa during 2006-07 season. This time also similar to 1997-98 series, team was able to win the second test match played at Port Elizabeth by 5 wickets to level the series 1-1. Third and last test match turned out to be an evenly contested encounter. Pakistan helped by Mohammad Yousuf’s lone hand to reach a partly score of 157 in its first innings. South Africa after a reasonable start stumbled and it was only due to efforts of Mark Boucher along with tail Enders that allow South Africa a cylinder 26 run first innings lead over Pakistan. Another batting collapse in second innings put paid to Pakistan’s chances of setting a daunting target for South Africa. Bowlers fought hard to make the ordinary looking victory target of 160 runs tough for South Africa and at one stage reduced Proteas to 4 for 39 but a big partnership between ever reliable Kallis and Ashwell Prince firmly put South Africa on victory path. Ashwell Prince dismissed late in the innings but by the time job was almost done and Devilliars along with Kallis finished the job to give South Africa series clinching victory.

Pakistan once again visiting South Africa and from the outset, this is proving to be a difficult tour. Team is facing some fitness problems even before the start of test series.

Pakistan have bat out of its skin in to face the world class South African bowling attack in order to stamp their authority in the current series. Seniors such as captain Misbah ul Haq and Younus Khan need to bat resolutely to hold the batting together. This tour is a good opportunity for players like Nasir Jamshed, & Asad Shafique to prove their credential and cement their place in Pakistan’s test team. Wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed whose selection was in question should take this chance very seriously. I am of the view that this is the last chance for Sarfraz especially in test matches and if he failed to deliver he may not play for Pakistan again specially in test matches.

Pakistan possesses the bowling arsenal to trouble South Africa’s mighty batting line up. Like Pakistan’s batsmen, bowlers will also find it difficult to adjust their length on bouncy wickets but they have some experience around to guide them. Let us all hope that they hit the straps soon.
Fielding is a department where South Africa is miles ahead of Pakistan but they way Pakistan fielded during its recent tour of India some hopes are raised in this department also. Fielders need to concentrate hard all the time and must grab all or most of the chance which come their way in the form of catch or a run out.

Scene is now set for the start of an interesting & crowd pulling test series. Not many critics will favor Pakistan to win the series but in past also, Pakistan surprised its friend & foes with their performance. As an ardent supporter of Pakistan, I hope that team able to pull out a rabbit from its hat to surprise their opponents and go on to win the first ever test series in South Africa. Let’s hope and pray that Misbah-ul-Haq become second captain of Pakistan after Shoaib Malik to win a test series against Proteas.

About the Author
I am working as a public relations consultant for last 10 years. I am fond of writing and so far wrote articles on various topics. I try to watch most of the TV talk shows and also read newspapers columns. All this help me in forming my own independent opinion.
Twitter: @KhurramZiaKhan