Spinners will play key role

DUBAI - The Dubai International Cricket Stadium is set to host its first Test as a confident South Africa, after their victories in the Twenty20 and one-day series, face Pakistan on Friday.

By Adur Pradeep

Published: Sat 13 Nov 2010, 12:12 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 2:46 AM

Dubai, after successfully hosting several T20 and ODI matches, is slated to be the 101st Test match venue in the world today.

Though South Africa, ranked No.2 in the world, start as favourites in Tests, an unpredictable Pakistan have the resources to upset their fancied opponents. After losing the T20 series 0-2, Pakistan fought back in the one-dayers, losing the title 2-3. Though the first and last ODIs saw the domination of South Africans, all the other matches were closely-contested thrillers.

Controversy hit Pakistan in this series as well as their wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider fled from the team hotel in Dubai to London on the morning of the final one-dayer on Monday.

However, the team management hopes the Test squad, led by Misbah-ul-Haq, would be able to put up a good performance. “You can’t just go with the past. You have to look forward all the time. We are focusing on the Test series now,” Misbah told reporters on Thursday.

“With some of our senior players back in the side, I am really looking forward to have a good series. I think we have a good, balanced side. I hope we will do well in the Test series,” he said.

“We are focusing only on cricket and will play to our strength which is spin. We hope it’s a new beginning at a new Test venue,” said Misbah of the Dubai Stadium.

Both the squads are likely to include spinners in their attack to take advantage of a wicket, expected to assist slow bowlers.

“Looking at the nature of the wicket, I think spinners have a big role to play here,” Misbah said.

South African captain Graeme Smith is also inclined to include two spinners in his squad.

“There is definitely an option,” said Smith of playing off-spinner Johan Botha and left-armer Paul Harris. “We have done that in the Caribbean (in June this year) which proved successful for us.”

Despite his team’s victory in T20s and ODIs, Smith is not overconfident about their chances in Tests.

“The confidence our players gained through the one-day series is good. I think it is going to be a neutral start. The venue is being used for the first time for Tests. Adapting to the surface is the key,” Smith said.

Pakistan, who will miss their star spinner Danish Kaneria here, will have to rely on their spinners Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman and Mohammad Hafeez for an impressive display.

The pace attack, already missing the likes of Mohammad Asif and Mohammed Aamer, have Umar Gul and Mohammad Sami, who is back in the side after missing the England tour.

Pakistan’s chances in the series would depend a lot on the form of Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf. Younis made a come back in the one-day series, and played a match-winning knock of 73 in the fourth one-dayer. Younis, who scored two half-centuries, had an average of 29.60 from five matches. The top scorer for Pakistan in ODIs was Hafeez, who amassed 203 runs, with an impressive average of 40.60.

On the other hand, South Africa seem to be having an excellent time, with their key performers hitting form at crucial junctures.

Captain Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy were among the runs during the ODI series and would be keen to extend their domination in Tests as well.

Besides, Ashwell Prince, who has 11 centuries, 10 half-centuries and an average of 43.57, will boost their batting line-up.

In the bowling department also, they have a well-balanced side, having quality spinners like Paul Harris and Johan Botha and a pace attack led by Dale Steyn.

Fast bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who was impressive in both T20 and ODI series, would be geared up to make an impression in the longer version of the game.

Wicket-keeper Mark Boucher, who missed the one-day series, is back in the side. His return will also boost the South African batting.

South African Test record against Pakistan is also very impressive, with the Proteas leading 5-1, while one series ended in a draw.


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