Match: South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd Test Match Venue: Newlands, Cape Town, South Africa. Date & Time: February 14th to February 18th, 2013, 13:30 PST / 08:30 GMT Overall Rivalry: Carnage; South Africa 9 wins, Pakistan 3 wins, 7 Draws Series: South Africa lead 1 – 0 (3-match series)
Weather Report: Mostly cloudy on Thursday morning, high of 25C and strong winds from the South at 20 to 30 km/h. It will remain clear and rain should not threaten through the course of five days of scheduled play.
Ground Report: Set in the foothill of a mountain, Newlands is one of the most pictorially beautiful grounds in the world. Its grass embankment, traditionally a scene of sunbathing fans has been uplifted to more seats and less grass, increasing its total capacity to 25,000 spectators.
Pakistan has played two matches here; one resulted in an innings defeat and the other in a loss where neither side passed 200 in four innings. A pitch known to assist spin, the Newlands track is expected to be an easier batting surface under hot and dry conditions. Six out of the last 10 toss-winning captains have elected to field at this ground but Thursday morning should balance that stat.
Game On: Pakistani batsmen took an hour in the first Test to bring their greatest fear to life. It was as if their collapse was destined and each batsman kept giving into his own fate. The remainder of the match for Pakistan became about saving face and limiting further numerical and psychological damage.
What would have happened if Smith had made the mentally jolted Pakistani batsmen follow-on that afternoon? Against a still fresh and charged up South African pace quad, for Pakistan’s sake, that question best remains unanswered.
That game witnessed Smith’s 100th Test as captain, AB de Villiers’ historical performance behind the stumps and Steyn’s career-best figures. However, Pakistan should take respite from their second innings at the Bullring as it marked the first time a subcontinent team faced over a hundred overs in the fourth innings on South African soil in its post apartheid period. While it depicts the problems faced by all teams from South Asia it also highlights that, perhaps, in better batting conditions, Pakistan can weather the South African fast bowling storm.
There are enough positives for Pakistan to build on in the bowling department despite losing their most threatening pacer Junaid Khan through an injury on the eve of the 2nd Test. They kept pegging into the South African batting order through some uncharacteristic discipline on the first day at Johannesburg. Their bowling was consistent, catches were held and extras were minimal. It was as though Misbah’s calmness transcended into an unusually patient Pakistan team.
Much needed relief was found behind the stumps through the tidy glovework of Sarfraz Ahmed who pouched everything and saved extras wherever possible. However, his bat has to start adding value to the score sheet if he wants a permanent role in the squad.
There have been talks of playing three openers to negotiate the destructive new ball. Opener Nasir Jamshed sprained an ankle and his partner Mohammed Hafiz caught a viral infection but both should be fit to play.
Imran Farhat opened in both innings against the Emerging Cape Cobras, partnering with Younis Khan who showed signs of form and with Azhar Ali, who has been out of nick but was Pakistan’s best batsmen in 2012. With healthy competition in the middle it will be difficult for Farhat to break into the side.
Abdur Rehman claimed 5 for 33 at 1.8 RPO in the same game. On a turning surface he could be the surprise selection but the lack of a genuine pace-bowling all rounder denies Pakistan that luxury.
It was not too long ago when the South African team toppled the English from the number one slot in Test rankings and it looks unlikely they will be challenged for that spot soon. Pakistan at number 4, is not too far down that list but the gap in the level of game play between the two appears wide and is further exaggerated in conditions of the Southern Hemisphere.