Pakistan's home series against New Zealand has finally ended. The series started off as a relatively easy assignment against the Kiwis at home but, in the end, it turned out to be a disappointing loss.
Next, for Pakistan, is a Test and limited-overs series in South Africa. The good news is that the team will get a reprieve from the pressure cooker like atmosphere at home following their surprising loss to the Kiwis but the bad news is they now have to play a much more difficult opponent on the road.
The striking thing about the Pakistan-New Zealand series was that the home team lost the series despite having dominated a large number of sessions in all three Tests. They were able to rattle the Kiwis with their spinners as expected but strangely found themselves on the receiving end of the outcome.
Now, after Pakistan's loss to New Zealand, the home team's hostile media and disgruntled fans are lambasting the team on social media platforms and have written them off against South Africa.
However, it's not a foregone conclusion that Pakistan will roll over against South Africa. After all, the swing and seam-friendly conditions in South Africa may turn out to be a double-edged sword for the South Africans. England discovered that earlier this summer at home when Pakistan's bowling unit cleaned them up and secured a 1-1 series draw.
South Africa's strength lies in its bowling unit. Despite the absence of Ngidi, due to injury, South Africa is well equipped to be devastating with the likes of Steyn, Rabada, and Philander spearheading their attack. The modus operandi for South Africa against sub-continent teams has been to run through their batting line-up and then to post an intimidating total beyond the reach of their opponents in the second innings.
Their batting line-up, however, is relatively weak and inexperienced. The prospect of facing Abbas, Hassan, and Amir is certainly not going to boost their confidence.
On the other hand, Pakistan too will be banking on their seamers to run through the South African batting line up. With the absence of past stalwarts like Kallis, De Villiers, and Smith, Pakistan will be licking their chops at the prospect of tearing into this young South African line-up.
And, chances are, they will do some real damage to South Africa. As for their batting strategy, Pakistan will be hoping for their opening pair of Imam and Fakhar, the team's weakest links, to somehow survive through the South African new ball onslaught but will be more realistically depending on its strong middle order of Azhar, Azam, Shafiq, Sohail, and Sarfraz to deliver for them.
The edge in the batting department certainly lies with South Africa because their batsmen are more comfortable in home conditions. But, Pakistan's middle order is more experienced and they have had the chance of having played England in similar conditions earlier this year.
Moreover, this South African line-up has yet to face such skillful seamers as Pakistan's. So, while South Africa are slight favorites, Pakistan are certainly no pushovers either. In the end, the outcome of this series may surprise a lot of people. It has all the ingredients to be a doozy of a series.Published 09 Dec 2018, 19:35 IST