South Africa’s cricketers will have been dusting themselves off after a chastening First Test defeat, by 7 wickets, to Pakistan and head into the Second Test starting on Thursday (7am SA time) written off in most circles.
Such was the manner of the loss in Lahore that the online bookies have Pakistan around 8-10 to repeat the performance, with South Africa at 2-1 and the draw at 9-2.
The game will be played at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium and the pitch is expected to be a little more seamer friendly and a little less of a spinners’ paradise than was the case in Lahore. A little less, mind you. The pitch should still aid the slower bowlers but there are hints, and history, to suggest that the seamers will get a bit of assistance.
Which is good news for South Africa, because it’s in the pace department, where Kagiso Rabada recently went past 200 Test wickets, that their strengths lie.
The batting let the Proteas down in the First Test and the three big questions really relate to Aiden Markram at the top of the order, Quinton de Kock batting at No5 to go with his wicketkeeping and captaincy responsibilities and Temba Bavuma, who averages 31 after 71 Test innings, with only one century.
South Africa’s batting looks fragile and has a long tail to inspire confidence of them reaching 350-plus, so the onus is on the bowlers.
Now, the pitch.
There have been 10 Test matches played at Rawalpindi over the years, dating back to the first one when Zimbabwe lost by 52 runs.
Of the 10 Tests there, only three matches have ended in draws – against Australia in 1994, South Africa in 1997 and Sri Lanka in 2019.
Of the 7 Tests that have ended in victories, 6 of them have come from the team batting second and 6 times they have been the team winning the toss and fielding first. That’s why there has been a lot of pre-match talk about the state of the Rawalpindi pitch. History says “win the toss and bowl”, which goes right against the common practice of Test cricket when winning the toss and batting first.
Therefore, should South Africa win tomorrow’s toss, they might well put Pakistan in to bat and there could be fun and games with the likes of Rabada and Nortje taking aim at the home side’s top-order. Obviously, the reverse applies, but South Africa’s pace bowlers hold the key.
In terms of having a bet, perhaps wait until the toss has been done and see what the winning captain decides to do. If he inserts the opposition, history suggests having a bet on the side bowling and fielding.
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