The first Test took only 8 sessions to produce a result. Dale Steyn was supposed to take the centre stage. He did though, but only for a wicket, the one that took him past Shaun Pollock’s tally and made him the highest-wicket taker for South Africa in the format. Kagiso Rabada lifted him on his shoulders, and that was that. Duanne Olivier stole the limelight, as he walked away with 11 wickets.
Pakistan gave a scare in the second innings, courtesy Imam-ul-Haq and Shan Masood’s fifties. But Olivier made sure that was the last time Pakistan heaved a sigh in the Test. From 101 for 2, Pakistan were shot down to 190 all-out. The veterans Dean Elgar and Hashim Amla negated Pakistan’s pace bowling with their class-apart defence and took South Africa to a 1-0 lead.
Vernon Philander is back. You can read the previous sentence again with an exclamation. He is back at his favourite ground Cape Town, where he has taken wickets at 16.5. No doubt that his captain Faf du Plessis will be happy, but at the same time, selecting the final XI will be a headache. South Africa cannot afford to drop Keshav Maharaj, as his spin adds variety to their bowling. Then there is Rabada, the No. 1 bowler in Tests. That narrows down the list to Steyn who took only 3 wickets at Centurion. At whose expense will Philander play is a question only time can tell.
Another comeback will be that of Mohammad Abbas, Pakistan’s best bowler in 2018. It seems Pakistan too carry selection troubles. Shahin Afridi took 5 wickets, Mohammad Amir 4, Hasan Ali 3, Yasir Shah 1 in the previous Test.
Let’s list down the players who are likely to accumulate more points in our fantasy team.Note: Make your fantasy cricket team by knowing the statistics.
My XI: Quinton de Kock (wk), Shan Masood, Babar Azam, Hashim Amla, Dean Elgar (vc), Aiden Markram, Vernon Philander, Mohammad Abbas, Shahin Afridi, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier
Azam and Masood looked solid. They played and missed a few, but their shot selection wasn’t as questionable as the other batters. Azam scored a fifty in the first innings and Babar in the second. The result, however, would have been different had these two batters clicked together.
Alternative: Imam approached the right strategy, that is, attack whenever there’s an opportunity. His quickfire fifty set the tone for Pakistan. If he and his opening partner Fakhar Zaman dictate terms right away, we might see South Africa on the backfoot.
Amla would have thanked heavens. The last time he had scored a fifty was 10 innings ago. His 61* at Centurion would have calmed not only him but also his team, for he is the vital cog in the wheel. South Africa would be hoping for more runs from the mighty Hash’s bat.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Although Elgar failed in the first innings, he performed when it mattered.
Markram, on the other hand, could not come into his elements throughout. Given his previous performances, it seemed like a one-off, rare failure. But if you are looking for form, Temba Bavuma is your man. South Africa would have been in further trouble had he not rescued them with his knock of 53 runs, including 9 fours.
Alternative: Both captains Sarfraz Ahmed and Faf du Plessis went for a pair. The latter laughed it off, but the Pakistan captain will have to raise the bar both as a batter and captain.
There is no iota of doubt that Sarfraz has been off colour. Picking de Kock over him would be more fruitful. He batted remarkably well with the tail, plundering 45 runs off a mere 53 balls.
Philander is so good at Newlands, Cape Town that he blasted a first-class century in October. We have already shed light on his bowling performances at the venue. Don’t hesitate to name him your captain. “Philander and Newlands go together like peanut butter and syrup,” says du Plessis.
It breaks my heart to bench Steyn, but it would be a crime to leave out Rabada and Olivier.
Abbas, meanwhile, is the obvious choice. Alternatives will be Amir, Afridi, Hasan, and Yasir.