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January 11, 2019

Pakistan look to salvage pride as SA seek series sweep


January 11, 2019

JOHANNESBURG: Pakistan’s inconsistent batting line-up will have to step up if they are to challenge South Africa in the third and final Test starting here at the Wanderers stadium on Friday (today).

Pakistan’s batsmen have looked out of their depth against potentially the best Test bowling attack on the most seam-friendly wickets. They’ve passed 200 just once in their four completed innings.

There have been contributions from the likes of Shan Masood and Babar Azam. In fact, those two are leading the run-scoring charts from either side with two fifties each. But it’s the failure of the line-up to pull together and post partnerships that has cost them.

As a collective, they did show some positive signs in the second innings of the second Test, with all of Shan, Babar and Asad Shafiq scoring fifties to prop Pakistan up to 294. They must look to repeat and even better that performance in the third Test.

It most certainly won’t be easy, not against an attack featuring Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier and Vernon Philander. The Wanderers pitch is most likely to be conducive to pace bowling but whether South Africa persist with four seamers or get in Keshav Maharaj as a spin option remains to be seen.

As is expected of them in home conditions, South Africa have been clinical in going 2-0 up against Pakistan. The batsmen struggled a bit in the first Test but pulled things together fantastically in the second game.

The only trouble for them going into the final game is that Faf du Plessis, captain and centurion in the previous game, will miss out. He has been suspended for one Test for maintaining a slow over rate.

The loss of Du Plessis will inevitably disrupt South Africa’s plans. He has led South Africa to 17 wins in his 27 Tests in charge and was named man of the match at Newlands. Speaking on Sunday before the ban was announced, Du Plessis said South Africa were determined to keep the pressure on Pakistan and win the series 3-0.

Opener Dean Elgar, 31, will take over the reins and it will be interesting to see how he fares as leader.The uncapped Zubayr Hamza is likely to fill in for du Plessis in the middle-order. The 23-year-old averages a nick under 50 in first-class cricket, and he would like to make a mark in what could be his opening game. There is also an injury concern with Aiden Markram.

Pakistan’s bowlers, who were exceptional in the first Test but fizzled out a bit in the second, will need to perform at their best. They will look to exploit the void left by du Plessis after he batted them out with a sublime 103 in Cape Town.

The weather at Johannesburg should be pleasant for most part although there are a few thunderstorms on the radar. As for the pitch, it’s expected to be a sporting wicket with support for seamers while also affording batsmen opportunities to dig in and score runs.

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