Pakistan vs South Africa, 1st Test: Preview and predicted Playing XI
Both teams have played 23 Test matches against each other, with 12 of those have been won by the Proteas and four by the Men in Green with the rest ending in draws. They have faced each other twice at the SuperSport Park in the longest format, with the Africans winning comprehensively on both occasions. In their most recent meeting at this venue back in February 2013, the hosts emerged victorious by an innings and 18 runs.
Pakistan have won four out of the eight Tests they have played so far this year. Their most recent Test series defeat came at UAE against New Zealand in July. It was a three-match series which the hosts ended up losing by 2-1.
Prior to that, they drew 1-1 against England and won 1-0 in a two-match series against Australia that was also played at home. They will take confidence from their recent success in this format and will aim to end the Centurion drought.
Azhar Ali and Babar Azam will hold the key in their batting. Both were among the leading run-getters in the recently concluded Test series against New Zealand with 307 and 267 runs respectively. Both scored a century in the practice game against SAXI and will look to carry the momentum against the Proteas. Imam ul Haq too was among the runs as scored 89 runs against SAXI and will be expected to provide a good start to the innings.
Harris Sohail and Asad Shafiq are other campaigners in the side with the ability to play long innings and might be a surprise package for the hosts. These two along with Skipper Sarfraz Ahmad are expected to give a hard time to opposition bowlers.
Yasir Shah will be the main threat for Proteas when it comes to bowling. Shah is in top form and he was their leading wicket-taker in recently concluded series against New Zealand with 29 wickets in three games. The onus will be on him to rattle the African top-order early on.
Hasan Ali was quite impressive in the previous series and got 13 Kiwi scalps in three outings. While Mohammad Abbas was the leading wicket-taker in Tests series against Aussies with 17 wickets in two matches and both of them likely to trouble the visitors in both the innings.
Expected Playing XI
Sarfraz Ahmed (C & W), Mohammad Abbas, Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman/Mohammad Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Asad Shafiq and Babar Azam.
Their previous Test assignment was in July 2018 against Sri Lanka. It was a two-match series which the Proteas ended on a losing note. They lost the opening game by 278 runs and then did nothing different in the second game to lose the game by 199 runs and the series 2-0. Though they pose a decent record at home, having routed the Aussies and India by 3-1 and 2-1 respectively.
Faf du Plessis topped the runs charts for the team in the previous Test series against the Islanders, and he will be backed by the management to replicate it against Pakistan.
Hashim Amla and Quinton de Kock have been their key figures in the batting order and these two will be expected to get the team off to a decent total. Aiden Markram was the top run scorer for Proteas with 480 runs in previous home series against Australia and team will need him to start from where he left off in that series.
In this department, South Africa will bank on the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj and Dale Steyn to put their best feet forward and get wickets in regular intervals. Maharaj was the Proteas best bowler in Sri Lanka with 16 wickets in two matches. Steyn, with 421 wickets in 88 Tests, poses a lot of experience under his belt and will continue to be a threat to any threat. His pace partner Kagiso Rabada too will look to rattle the top order with his blistering pace.
Expected Playing XI
Faf du Plessis (C), Temba Bavuma, Theunis de Bruyn, Quinton de Kock (W), Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Dane Paterson, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla and Dean Elgar.