South Africa and Pakistan will play a three-Test series from Friday 1 February 2013 to Tuesday 26 February 2013, with the games taking place in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Centurion.
The series is one to which cricket fans are looking forward because it brings together the world’s number one- and number four-ranked sides, with South Africa leading the way on an International Cricket Council Test rating of 124 points and Pakistan not all that far behind on 109.
There are some countries in which Pakistan has not played a Test match for even longer than its home nation. And South Africa is one of them, with Pakistan not having played a five-day game in the republic since 2007. None of Pakistan’s bowling attack knows what it is like to play a Test in South Africa, although the bouncy pitches ought to suit them.
South Africa hotly fancied
Bookmakers have installed South Africa as the hot favourite for the three-Test series, which is hardly surprising given its ranking as the world’s top team and Pakistan’s previous results in the republic. South Africa has won six of its nine Test matches at home to Pakistan, with those half a dozen wins producing three series successes and one draw.
And the deeper that one digs the stronger that one feels that South Africa has an excellent chance of sweeping Pakistan 3-0 and extending its lead over England at the summit of the International Cricket Council Test rankings.
World’s best bowling attack
Bowling is what wins Test matches – sides have to take 20 wickets at a reasonable rate to stand any chance of winning five-day games – and South Africa has the best attack in the world. Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander are ranked number one and number two respectively, with Morne Morkel in eighth spot. No other team has three bowlers in the top 12, with Pakistan’s finest coming in at numbers three, 11 and 19.
South Africa’s lack of a really top-class spinner makes them vulnerable away from home – particularly on Asia’s dusty pitches – but it does not matter so much in the republic because the conditions favour seam bowlers such as Steyn, Philander and Morkel. South Africa has won its last three home matches by 10 wickets, an innings and 27 runs and an innings and 193 runs and it has not tasted defeat in any of its last dozen games irrespective of venue, winning series in Australia, England and New Zealand during that period.
Pakistan’s batsmen more likely to fail
The key to the matches between South Africa and Pakistan will not be how the home side’s batsmen handles the away team’s bowlers but how the away side’s willow wielders respond to the challenge of the home team’s fast men.
Although Pakistan’s bowling line-up is worthy of respect – Saeed Ajmal would walk into any Test side, while Umar Gul, Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan are not mugs – one would bank on South Africa’s batsmen scoring competitive totals against them. South Africa has four of the top-ranked dozen batsmen, including the freakish talents Hashim Amla (ranked second), AB de Villiers (ranked sixth) and Jacques Kallis (ranked seventh). Rarely does South Africa’s batting fail to fire.
Pakistan’s batting is a lot more flaky, with only three men in the top 30 and even those ranked highly – Younus Khan is ninth, Azhar Ali is 11th and Misbah-ul-Haq is 13th – prone to off days. South Africa’s pace attack is going to ask a lot of questions of Pakistan’s batsmen and the jury is out as to whether the tourists will be able to handle the combination of speed, bounce and sideways movement.
The all important ground statistics
Johannesburg’s New Wanderers Stadium will stage the First Test between South Africa and Pakistan, getting under way on Friday 1 February 2013. South Africa has won only 13 of its 33 matches at the ground, although it is due a victory there having gone loss-win-loss-win-loss-win-loss since 2006.
Fast bowlers have been named man of the match in each of the last five New Wanderers Stadium games, with the honours going to Shanthakumaran Sreesanth (India), Steyn, Mitchell Johnson (Australia), Morkel/Steyn shared and Pat Cummins (Australia). So one can expect a seam-friendly pitch.
Newlands in Cape Town will be the venue for the Second Test between South Africa and Pakistan, starting on Thursday 14 February 2013. Appropriately for Valentine’s Day, South Africa loves playing at Newlands, with seven victories and three draws in its last 10 appearances at the venue.
There have been some very low scores in Cape Town matches recently, including New Zealand’s 45 all out in the first innings of the 2013 New Year’s Test. Kallis and Philander have shared the last four man-of-the-match awards at the ground between them so one could say they like the joint.
The Third Test between South Africa and Pakistan is set for Centurion’s SuperSport Park, beginning on Friday 22 February 2013. South Africa has won 13 and drawn three of its 17 games in Centurion so the home side will be confident.
It is worth noting that SuperSport Park has been somewhere that many of crickets second-tier nations have faced South Africa so the home team’s record may be a bit inflated.
South Africa can sweep series
With South Africa appearing to hold the aces and the last 30 Tests at New Wanderers Stadium, Newlands and SuperSport Park producing only five draws, one should look to back the home side to beat Pakistan 3-0, which is available at around 7-2.