South Africa vs Pakistan, 1st Test, Preview: Acid test for the visitors begin at the Centurion

South Africa vs Pakistan, 1st Test, Preview: Acid test for the visitors begin at the Centurion

The Boxing Day Test in Centurion is all set for a classic face-off.

Pakistan
Pakistan. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Amidst several troubles with their batting, the Pakistan cricket team will begin their tour of South Africa with the first of the three-match Test series being played at the Centurion. Last time the country was in the Rainbow Nation, they were thumped 3-0 in the series. It was at the same venue eight years ago when the Proteas defeated them by an innings and 18 runs to complete the whitewash.

Sarfraz Ahmed and his men are coming into this series after an embarrassing loss against New Zealand. The batsmen haven’t lived up to the expectations and there is immense pressure on them. The bowlers, however, seem to be in a pretty decent space and will hope to make most of the bouncy conditions.

Just like Pakistan, the Proteas also have a few troubles with their batting. The troika of Hashim Amla, Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram struggled in Sri Lanka. This is a problem they’ve got to sort out as soon as possible to have an advantage over the visitors. Their bowling looks just as fierce as ever and there shouldn’t be many issues with the attack.

These two sides do not really prefer drawing games and will push hard for a result. South Africa didn’t draw a single match out of the nine that they played this year. On the other hand, Pakistan drew one out of eight when Australia fought extremely hard in October this year.

Team Combinations

South Africa

South Africa is playing cricket after a while. With Vernon Philander injured, Duanne Olivier could be sharing the pace responsibilities with Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada. Zubayr Hamza, who was named in the 13-man squad might have to wait a little longer for his debut. Skipper Faf du Plessis has enough faith in Hashim Amla and backs him to do well. Quinton de Kock, having rediscovered his form, could be critical down the order.

Predicted XI: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Theunis de Bruyn, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (c), Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock (wk), Keshav Maharaj, Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier.

Pakistan

For Pakistan, their batting order looks pretty much settled. Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq will open the innings. The middle-order will have to shoulder more responsibility and play with more caution. Yasir Shah will be the spinner in the side while Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir and Shaheen Afridi will share the pace duties.

Predicted XI: Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq, Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed (c & wk), Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Afridi.

Focus will be on

Dale Steyn (South Africa)

Dale Steyn hasn’t had a great comeback series in Sri Lanka. He picked up two wickets in the first Test while going wicketless in the other. The pacer has 421 Test wickets under his belt at the moment levelled with Shaun Pollock. He would be eager to break the record in this game and also have a few more wickets under his belt. There will be a lot of eyes following him up keenly.

Mohammad Amir (Pakistan)

It is another pacer on whom there would be a lot of eyes on. Mohammad Amir was axed from the Test squad after the England series this year. The left-arm pacer hasn’t been able to create as much of an impact as he used to do earlier. But, with him making a comeback now, the fans will be eager to see him fire in all cylinders and yield out a better performance.

Head to Head

Matches – 23 | South Africa won – 12 | Pakistan won – 4 | Draw – 7

Stat Attack

421 – The number of wickets that Dale Steyn has picked in his Test career thus far. He will need one more wicket to go past Shaun Pollock to emerge as the all-time leading Test wicket-taker for South Africa.

Broadcast Details

TV – Sony ESPN, Sony ESPN HD

Match Timings: 13:30 IST; 10:00 local

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