CAPE TOWN (AFP) – Pakistan’s batsmen face a big challenge when they take on South Africa’s in-form fast bowlers in the second Test starting at Newlands on Thursday.
After being bowled out for 49 on the way to a 211-run defeat in the first Test in Johannesburg, Pakistan will be up against Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel on the ground where Australia were bowled out for 47 last season and New Zealand for 45 last month.
Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq identified combating the new ball as the top priority for his team following the first Test.
The left-handed Imran Farhat, who played the most recent of his 39 Tests in August 2010, opened the batting in both innings in a two-day practice match against an Emerging Cape Cobras team which ended on Monday, but it is uncertain whether he will play in the Test.
Mohammad Hafeez failed twice in the first Test and did not bat in the practice match, while Nasir Jamshed, who showed promise as an opener in his first Test appearance, suffered an ankle injury in the field against the Cobras team and also did not bat, but is expected to be fit for the Test.
There was a boost for the tourists when Younis Khan, their most experienced batsman, ended a run of poor form with an unbeaten 74 in the second innings of the practice match.
Khan’s success gives added credence to Misbah’s claim that Pakistan’s middle order were capable of posting competitive totals, after Misbah and Asad Shafiq both hit half-centuries in the second innings in Johannesburg.
At least one change is expected in Pakistan’s bowling line-up, with the tall Mohammad Irfan favoured to replace Rahat Ali, who did not take a wicket in Johannesburg. Irfan had match figures of seven for 40 against the Cobras side.
South Africa, meanwhile, seem certain to retain the side that won in Johannesburg as they seek to clinch the three-match series on a ground where they have won 20 of 25 Tests since returning to international cricket in 1991.
They have been unbeaten at the ground in their most recent nine Tests, seven of which have been won.
South African captain Graeme Smith will captain his country for the 100th time after being feted for a century of captaincies in Johannesburg, with one of the matches having been for a World XI.
The match is being billed as a tribute to Mark Boucher, South Africa’s long-serving wicketkeeper, who was forced to retire after suffering an eye injury at the start of a tour of England last year.
South Africa (likely): Graeme Smith (capt), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (wkt), Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel
Pakistan (from): Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Imran Farhat, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wkt), Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Ehsan Adil, Abdur Rehman, Faisal Iqbal, Tanvir Ahmed, Rahat Ali
Umpires: Steve Davis, Bruce Oxenford (both AUS). TV umpire: Billy Bowden (NZL). Match referee: Jeff Crowe (NZL)