HAVING already lost the Test series against South Africa, Pakistan will find it hard to motivate themselves to regroup and bounce back to end the three-match rubber 2-1 after the disappointments they encountered in the opening two Tests.
The Wanderers, the venue of the third Test starting today, is not a place where I would expect Pakistan to look impressive for the mere fact that this has never been a venue where they have done well.
Pakistan’s first Test encounter here was in 1994-95 in which they were soundly beaten and since then their batting has badly let them down each time they have played here. And now when they are panic-stricken with their obvious fear against the South African pace battery, I do not see Pakistan batting blooming beyond our expectations.
Having said that, I would like Azhar Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq and the rest to stand up and build a sizeable total for their team here and take the fight to the hosts. The chances of them doing so, however, appear quite slim.
Pakistan must put up a fight at Wanderers to save series blushes
Also, we must not forget that last year the Wanderers pitch was so poor against the touring Indians that it was reported and the venue ended with demerit points from the ICC.
Surely, Pakistan would be aware of that if only they have had a look at the previous matches played here.
It is important, therefore, for them to continue with leg-spinner Yasir Shah despite his disappointments with the pitches not helping him.
The failures of our batsmen does not encourage me to recommend the same pair of opening batsmen. Imam has got to go and should Fakhar Zaman to bring in fresh players like Faheem Ashraf and Mohammad Rizwan.
For South Africa, their captain Faf du Plessis is not playing because he has been suspended for one Test for his team’s slow over rate during last week’s second Test at Cape Town.
His replacement as captain Dean Elgar may turn out to be even more aggressive in his approach than the phlegmatic du Plessis has been and he may not allow Sarfraz Ahmed and his men to breathe easy or show any improvement from their horrible efforts in the series thus far.
For their lack of efforts and skills, Pakistan are consigned for another nightmare which they are so desperate to avoid after being rolled out in each of the previous Tests inside three and four days respectively.
What really is most important for Pakistan also is that immediately after this final Test they will be padding up once again to play in the ODIs and Twenty20 series.
Any improvement in this Test would realistically provide them with certain amount of confidence which at this stage which is in very short supply for the entire squad at the moment, and that includes the entire support staff.
Whatever the circumstances in which Pakistan take up the opposition here will obviously count a lot to lift up their sagging morale for the one-day fixtures ahead in which Pakistan should look a different team altogether.
Published in Dawn, January 11th, 2019