Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Misbah's Troops Arrive

Played 17
Won 9
Lost 1
Drawn 7

The more you look at it the more amazed you are at Misbah's Test Captaincy Record. Only defeated once in 17 tests. 9 times the number of wins as losses.

This is serious business. This is not a one day or t20 slogfest. This is a test series against the number 1 ranked side who are the greatest South African side of our time. Misbah has won 15 series as captain, BUT a drawn series here will be bigger than almost ALL of those 15 series wins

Only 2 Pakistan captains have lead their side for 7 test series without series defeat

1) Imran Khan in the 80s

2) Misbah ul Haq in 2010-12 (still hasn't lost a FULL test series while captain)

Misbah has missed One Test and One ODI only since Jan 2011. In both matches Pak lost and batting collapsed.

Top 6 batting predictions
Hafeez = no 50s
Taufeeq = 1 century
Azhar = 1 century and 3 50s
Younis = 1 century
Misbah = 3 scores of 30+, including 1 fifty
Shafiq = 2 50s
Rest = no 50s

Overall Pakistan Tests
Key young players: Junaid Khan
Key experienced players: Younis Khan & Taufeeq Umar 
Key Batsmen – Azhar Ali
Key Bowler – Saeed Ajmal
Key Fielder – Younis Khan & Misbah ul Haq

Overall South Africa Tests
Key young player: Faf Du Plessis (in terms of test experience is ‘young’)
Key experienced players: Kallis and Smith
Key Batsmen: Hashim Amla
Key Bowler: Dale Steyn
Key All-rounder: Jacques Kallis
Key Fielder: Jacques Kallis
Potential MOTS: Steyn, Kallis

Recalling 2010 Series vs SA
Misbah completed his first series as Pakistan Captain. Misbah had the highest batting average by a Pakistan batsman, Azhar and Misbah had the most 50+ scores, Azhar had the longest crease occupation rate, Younis was the sole centurion, Rehman was the leading wicket taker for them in the series. It was a creditable drawn outcome which was a triumph for the side for all the turmoil they had been through. It was seen as a series win in many ways and rightly so:

1) They had lost 10 out of their last 15 tests coming into the series
2) They had played no tests at home for over a year, not even in UAE and it was being felt
3) They had just been through their most shameful controversy in the previous test played
4) The Zulqarnain events building up to the test series would have caused distractions
5) South Africa carried the momentum, winning the T20 and ODI legs fairly convincingly
6) South Africa were the number 2 ranked side
7) They had a new captain who was making a come-back as a player as well
8) They had a totally new looked side with new faces and come-back of some older players
9) In both tests they were on the back-foot and had to show plenty of character, heart and spirit in order to fight their way out of it
10) Pakistan traditionally have an inferior test record in head to head contests vs. South Africa
11) There was a lot of criticism at the choice of captain and the overall selection of squad
12) It was the batting that clicked: Only lost 26 wickets in 4 innings, 76 in previous 8 innings before
13) There was a 1st wicket 100 partnership during the series
14) They posted their highest 4th innings total during the series
15) 2 batsmen scored 3 50s or above out of a possible 4 innings
16) Steyn was neutralised, regardless of conditions, he is a top quality pace bowler
17) Pakistan went to New Zealand and the World Cup with some much needed restored pride and confidence in the next assignments

Summing Up

 Playing the number 1 ranked side once more, but a better number 1 ranked side than India or England in recent times, the best ever South African side and in their own backyard where no Asian side have won a test series.They are undefeated in 11 series in a row with 5 series wins in a row including series wins in England and Australia.I expect Smith’s men to win the series if they play to their potential, but Pakistan might be able to do as well as India did in 2010/11 (1-1) mainly thanks to Dravid and Tendulkar’s final day resistance or Sri Lanka (lost 2-1) in the last South African season. Given they are playing their first test after 200 days you’d expect them to be rusty to begin with (in same time SA have played 3 more series). Probably, it’s Pakistan's hardest series since Australia 2009/10. It is their first major series outside Asia against a better ranked side since England 2010.

However, apart from Sri Lanka and New Zealand, the hosts haven't beaten anyone major at home since 2009. Australia, England and India have all drawn in their previous visit. They are stronger on paper, though their home record is not a ruthless one in recent years.

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