Pakistan batsmen face big challenge in second Test

Mohammad Irfan to make his Test debut at Newlands. (FILE)

Pakistan's batsmen face a big challenge when they take on South Africa's in-form fast bowlers in the second Test starting at Newlands on Thursday.

After being bowled out for 49 on the way to a 211-run defeat in the first Test in Johannesburg, Pakistan will be up against Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel on the ground where Australia were bowled out for 47 last season and New Zealand for 45 last month.

Pakistan captain Misbah ul Haq identified combating the new ball as the top priority for his team following the first Test.

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The left-handed Imran Farhat, who played the most recent of his 39 Tests in August 2010, opened the batting in both innings in a two-day practice match against an Emerging Cape Cobras team which ended on Monday, but it is uncertain whether he will play in the Test.

Mohammad Hafeez failed twice in the first Test and did not bat in the practice match, while Nasir Jamshed, who showed promise as an opener in his first Test appearance, suffered an ankle injury in the field against the Cobras team and also did not bat, but is expected to be fit for the Test.

There was a boost for the tourists when Younus Khan, their most experienced batsman, ended a run of poor form with an unbeaten 74 in the second innings of the practice match.

Khan's success gives added credence to Misbah's claim that Pakistan's middle order were capable of posting competitive totals, after Misbah and Asad Shafiq both hit half-centuries in the second innings in Johannesburg.

Injured Pakistan seamer Junaid Khan has been ruled out and coach Dav Whatmore said the tourists were weighing up a replacement for the 24-year-old, who has failed to recover from a thigh injury sustained before Pakistan's practice match against the Emerging Cape Cobras.

"Junaid is definitely out of the second Test but we hope to have him fit again for Centurion," Whatmore told a news conference.

The third Test at Centurion starts on Feb. 22.

Seamer Mohammad Irfan or left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman are the front-runners to replace Khan in the line-up, with Whatmore saying the decision would be made once they had assessed the wicket on Thursday.

The coach also hinted that both might get to play, with the place of first-Test debutant Rahat Ali under threat after he proved ineffective against the South African batsmen in the first Test at the Wanderers, which the home team won.

If Irfan does feature, he would be making his Test debut at the age of 30. Whatmore said his 7-40 in the practice match had suggested he was in the right form.

"Irfan had a good practice match, he did as much as he can to push for a game. If he does play in the second test he would have earned it."

Pakistan may opt to add a third spinner in Rehman, especially after the success that Mohammed Hafeez had at the Wanderers in picking up 4-16 in the first innings. He bowled well in tandem with front-line spinner Saeed Ajmal.

Whatmore confirmed that the batting line-up would remain the same from the first Test, with Nasir Jamshed able to train on Tuesday after he missed the practice match with an ankle injury.

South Africa, meanwhile, seem certain to retain the side that won in Johannesburg as they seek to clinch the three-match series on a ground where they have won 20 of 25 Tests since returning to international cricket in 1991.

They have been unbeaten at the ground in their most recent nine Tests, seven of which have been won.

Skipper Graeme Smith said he hoped Pakistan's batsmen would be tentative when they face South Africa's fast bowlers at Newlands.

Fifteen of the 20 Pakistan wickets that fell in the first Test in Johannesburg were to catches behind the wicket or in the slips.

South Africa won by 211 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

"I'd like to put it down to our guys creating good angles, getting good swing," said Smith. "For them, the bounce and the shape (means) there is a very different style of batting needed in those conditions. Any time you have that many caught-behinds, you need to have a look at how you leave the ball."

Smith said he hoped the Pakistanis would come into the second match with a tentative mindset.

"They allowed us to bowl at them. We managed to control the run rate for a large part of the game. That allowed us to attack them more. If they come into this match with a mindset to leave, they are going to be tentative. That will allow us to create pressure on them and will play into our favour."

Smith warned, though, that he regarded Pakistan as dangerous opponents.

"We can't underestimate the talent they have. If there is one team that can bounce back from a performance like that it is Pakistan."

Although he was feted for achieving 100 Test captaincies in Johannesburg, Smith said the Newlands Test meant even more to him because he will be leading South Africa for the 100th time, with one of his captaincies having been when he led a World XI against Australia in 2005/06.

"Representing South Africa as captain 100 times is the mark that means the most to me," he said.

"Newlands is our marquee Test ground and we've played well here. To achieve a milestone at this ground is something I am looking forward to."

Smith has led South Africa to eight wins, four draws and one defeat in 13 captaincies at Newlands.

He said South Africa, ranked number one in Test cricket, had the challenge of maintaining the standard of their performances and meeting the expectations of their supporters.

But he believed the current team was equipped to deal with most situations, with an experienced batting line-up complementing the side's fast bowlers.

"The side has got good at recognising moments in games and making big impacts, like day two at the Wanderers," he said. "When the game needs to be stepped up, we find that extra bit.

"There is a lot of experience in our top four, an understanding of how to handle conditions, what is the right play at the right time. The guys are prepared to do the hard work."

Smith said he was looking forward to facing 2.1-metre Mohammad Irfan, reputed to be the tallest man to play international cricket.

"It's going to be a unique experience," he said.
"Out in the middle we will have to face that challenge."

The match is being billed as a tribute to Mark Boucher, South Africa's long-serving wicketkeeper, who was forced to retire after suffering an eye injury at the start of a tour of England last year.

Teams:

South Africa (likely): Graeme Smith (capt), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers (wk), Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel

Pakistan (from): Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed, Imran Farhat, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed (wkt), Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Ehsan Adil, Abdur Rehman, Faisal Iqbal, Tanvir Ahmed, Rahat Ali







 

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