Tour to South Africa is always challenging for any team. Particularly the way South Africa cricket team have emerged in the last two decades following the sporting boycott of the country during the Apartheid era shows how much they have achieved by strengthening their domestic cricket structure. Today, any team visiting South Africa feel mounting pressure and from the selectors to the coach to the captain, every member of the touring side tries to do his best.

[caption id="attachment_215" align="alignright" width="233"]Winning formula for Pakistan: batsmen must stay on wicket (Photo: AFP) Winning formula for Pakistan: batsmen must stay on wicket (Photo: AFP)[/caption]

South Africa have proved themselves tough contenders on their home grounds. By looking at the record of South Asian teams in particular, no Asian team have yet won a series here. In aggregate, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh have played a total of 15 series in South Africa, losing 13 and drawing two—Pakistan in 1998 and India in 2011.

Only England and Australia are the two countries who have records of winning against the Proteas, both before and after the boycotting era. In fact, both teams haven’t lost a single Test series in South Africa since 2000. Australians played four series in South Africa during the period, winning three—including a historic whitewash in 2006—and drawing one. On the other hand, England have played two Test series in South Africa in the last 12 years, winning one and drawing another.

Apart from these two teams, the record is very disturbing for the remaining countries. See the table given below:

Performance of all countries against South Africa

TeamTotal seriesVisitors' victoryVisitors' defeatDrawn series
نیوزی لینڈ7061
سری لنکا4040
ویسٹ انڈیز3030
بنگلہ دیش2020

Looking at the batting averages of the touring sides, Australia and England are at the top which shows that victory in South Africa requires better batting averages as the win-loss ratios of the two teams are better. Since the South African wickets are already helpful for bowlers, the touring side should worry about their batsmen.

Looking at the table given below, Pakistan’s batting average is around 22 per wicket that means they have always found it difficult to face bowlers on the South African wickets.

That’s why the “winning formula” in the present tour is quite simple: stay on the wicket and runs will come. Bowlers will do the remaining work. Pakistan’s captain Misbah-ul-Haq talked about the same formula yesterday.

Batting average of teams touring South Africa

TeamBatting average (a wicket)
ویسٹ انڈیز24.65
نیوزی لینڈ21.92
سری لنکا21.34
بنگلہ دیش16.63

Pakistan have always been rich as far as the fast bowlers are concerned and in the South African conditions helpful for pacers, the green shirts can perform better as they did in the past. That’s why fast bowlers’ strike rate in South Africa is 66.9, means they get a wicket in every 12th over, and spinners’ strike rate is 73.7 means in every 13th over they send a batsman to pavilion.

The table below shows that Pakistan bowlers’ strike rate is quite better than other teams. The figure shows they take a wicket in every 11th over and if they succeed in maintaining the strike rate in the current series, it means they can bowled out South Africa in a day.

It is obvious that the hosts could hardly score 250 runs if they kept on losing wickets frequently. But Pakistan know it quite well that present South African team have very strong batting line-up, and the visiting bowlers will have to perform extraordinarily well to undermine the opponents’ confidence.

Strike rate of visiting side's bowlers against South Africa

TeamBowling strike rate
نیوزی لینڈ73.7
سری لنکا73.8
ویسٹ انڈیز80.9
بنگلہ دیش108.4

Pakistani batsmen never found it easier on South African wickets and none of their batsman could stand bowlers, except Azhar Mehmood who has scored 327 runs, including two centuries, in five innings with an average of 65.40.

Taufeeq Umar also has had a good experience in South Africa, scoring 280 in two Tests with an average of 70, and it is hoped that he would maintain his form this time around, too.

Pakistani batsmen who scored most runs in South Africa

NameMatchesInningsRunsBest scoreAverage100s50s
Azhar Mahmoodپاکستان3532713665.4020
Younis Khanپاکستان5103056833.8802
Taufeeq Umarپاکستان2428013570.0011
Mohammad Yousufپاکستان5102618326.1002

Another issue in South Africa is of fitness. If Pakistani players remain fit, it would mean they conquer 20 percent of the series. Especially, bowlers’ fitness would be critical as they can play a key role for Pakistan. The trio of Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan and Umar Gul can have catastrophic effects for the opponents, not to mention Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman whose bowling might push South Africa to the brink of collapse. But again, all eyes will be on the pacers and the spinners may be used on vital occasions to give rest to the fast bowlers.

Pakistani bowlers who scored most wickets in South Africa

Waqar Younisپاکستان585562028.30
Mohammad Asifپاکستان363511918.47
Danish Kaneriaپاکستان363951526.33
Mushtaq Ahmedپاکستان342801321.53
Shoaib Ahktarپاکستان472931029.30

Pakistan in South Africa: A few interesting statistics

  1. Pakistan have scored four Test centuries, two of them scored by Azhar Mehmood.

  2. Taufeeq Umar and Saeed Anwar have scored triple hundreds apiece.

  3. Saleem Malik played only one Test, when in 1995 in Johannesburg he scored 99 runs in the first inning and one run in the second.

  4. In the 1998 tour, Rashid Latif played for the first time as a captain. In the third and last Test of the series played at Port Elizabeth, skipper Latif couldn’t get off the mark in both innings. Amir Sohail captained the side in the first two matches and Latif led the team in the third. The series ended in a 1-1 draw.

  5. Waqar Younis took 10 wickets in the same match in which Latif made debut as Test captain. Apart from Younis, Mohammad Asif has taken two five-wicket hauls in the 2007 tour.

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