It sets up a perfect canvas for a great match with South Africa being known for its lapses in the recent past in the face of a Pakistani Team that has shed a lifetime of flakiness and replaced it with real resilience.
A resilience, that will gain gold star credibility if they can fight back with a refined performance in this match...........
The drought like weather means this pitch will be dry and lack the spice seen in the 1st Test pitch. A scenario that certainly suits the under fire Pakistani batsmen, who had their collective pants pulled down in Johannesburg.
"If there is one ground where they can bounce back its Newlands,"
These were the words from South African opener Alviro Petersen in the knowledge that the pitch with be more slow and low for the batsmen to face, and might indeed bring the spinners into play.
Definitely an Asian type pitch, where you bat first, score big, and then grind out the opposition from there on.
Would you change the Team after a near perfect performance in the 1st Test?
Meaning this will be the 11
1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Hashim Amla, 4 Jacques Kallis, 5 AB de Villiers (wk), 6 Faf du Plessis, 7 Dean Elgar, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Robin Peterson, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Morne Morkel
The first Test performance highlighted by the batting getting blown away for 49 has received a lot of hysterical responses. It must be said that there was a fair bit of context attached to this showing with Pakistan undoing itself with its lack of preparation for the conditions and then being greeted by Dale Steyn at his fearsome best. You could make wholesale changes in the wake of that display, but Pakistan's strength in the last two years has been their stability. Meaning the same batsmen should be given a second chance.
As for changes, one might be enforced if spearhead Junaid Khan does not recover from his thigh injury. Most have already conceded he is out meaning he will likely be in. The other place in the line up under question is young paceman Rahat Ali, who was pretty much ineffectual in the 1st Test. He will be dropped with most wanting the giant Mohammad Irfan, but I would select the left arm spin of Abdur Rehman
With Irfan being much about 'hope', whereas Rehman is about 'certainty'
This would be my Team
Hafees, Jamshed, Azhar, Younus, Misbah ( C ), Asad, Sarfraz, Gul, Rehman, Ajmal, Junaid ( Irfan, if Junaid is unfit )
The Keys to Winning
I think the key factor going into this match for South Africa is to maintain the rage they showed in the 1st Test. On paper, they over match Pakistan, but one of the flaws in the Team in recent times has been inexplicable lapses after reducing their opposition to their knees
You saw this in the corresponding series against Sri Lanka last year after mauling them in the first Test only to allow them to not just get off the canvas, but defeat them in the 2nd Test. A similar example was shown in the drawn Australian series of a few years ago
Both examples, and others that could be brought up owing to them not being 100% in the head.
In my mind, they are far and away number 1 in ability, but lacking the added mental dominance that goes with a Champ. As seen indelibly in the great Windies and Aussies, who not only beat you on the field, but were relentless in their minds. Meaning Teams never got given an inch and every chance was grasped to drive them into the turf when down.
They need that in this match with a pitch that will suit Pakistan to a T, and give rise to a resurgence.
If they have no mental let downs then they just need to perform at the level they did in the first Test to be victorious here
I say this for even the best of batting line ups would struggle against an in form South African bowling line up, and then granted the pitch will suit Pakistan, but the regal South African batsmen will enjoy batting on a feather-bed too
The 1st Test obliteration was indeed about the failure of the teams batting, but in the face of how exceptional the South African bowlers were an excuse could be given.
Especially with Dale Steyn bordering on unplayable
Dip their hats in honour of this supreme excellence and condemn Johannesburg to the best forgotten basket and start again here
The pitch offers them a perfect opportunity to do this, but this must be grasped by an improvement in their application and make the hosts work harder for their wickets. Fans might abhor Misbah's 'tuk tuk' mannerisms, but his dedication to the task and relentless desire to succeed needs to be embraced by his batting mates. They fed the slips ad nauseum in the 1st Test, which was to an extent due to the standard of bowling, but also the batsmens choices to play at deliveries that they could have left.
Crucially, the openers have a huge role to play with them needing to blunt the new ball on a pitch that might be decided by which Team is most effective bowling with it. If they can, it will shield the under performing middle order giving them their best chance to be a factor in the series. This needs to be commandeered by Azhar Ali and Younus Khan ( YK ) finding form and being the decisive factors that they usually are.
The Teams batting needs depth too with the tail needing to contribute. In a word, Sarfraz Ahmed's efforts with the bat in the first Test was not acceptable. Especially when he replaced Adnan Akmal, who had a reputation for gutsy displays with the willow when the Team was in need.
Blind Freddy can see the performance of the batting is key to the Teams prospects, but the bowling needs to lift as well. Especially if spearhead Junaid Khan is missing.
If that is the reality then the Teams best bet is to try to make the game an Asian type attritional affair with spin its basis. I say this for Mohammad Hafees showed that South Africa might have a flaw against spin in the 1st Test. And on a pitch that probably will support spin the inclusion of the excellent left armer Abdur Rehman would be wise. In the knowledge that South Africa's batsmen are traditionally conservative in playing spin meaning the exceptional Pakistani spin trio could go into strangulation mode making them deadly dangerous.
Lets hope Pakistan show the courage to include Rehman, and then the toss falls in their favour to allow the best chance for the ploy to succeed.
This match in my mind is a clash between South Africa's all round excellence and Pakistan's new found resilience on a pitch that will be like a bed for them to lie in.
I think this match will see Pakistan fight back hard supported by the conditions in what will be a gripping match
That ends in a Draw