Sri Lanka, in their own den, blanked South Africa 2-0 in July this year. Since then, South Africa have not played any Test cricket. Before that, they had drubbed India 2-1 and Australia 3-1 at home.
Pakistan too come from a defeat. They lost to New Zealand 1-2, their only second Test series defeat in their adopted home UAE.
These two teams will lock horns for a three-Test series in South Africa.
Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Abbas, and Vernon Philander have been ruled out of the Boxing Day Test due to injuries. South Africa have summoned Dane Paterson as a back-up bowler.
Note: Make your fantasy cricket team by knowing the statistics.
In the limelight
Earlier this month, Yasir Shah achieved the milestone of becoming the fastest player to 200 Test wickets. He dethroned Clarrie Grimmett who had taken as many wickets in 36 Tests, 3 more than Yasir.
Yasir has been in an incredible form this year, grabbing 37 wickets at 22.9 – 14 of which came in the Dubai Test against New Zealand earlier this month.
But Yasir isn’t the highest wicket-taker for Pakistan this year. Mohammad Abbas, the ever-improving pacer, has 38 victims to his name at a staggering average of 13.7. He, as fate would have it, hasn’t recovered from shoulder injury he sustained in the second Test against New Zealand and Pakistan would hope for his return soon.
However, eclipsing the Pakistani duo is the No. 1 bowler in the ICC Test Rakings, Kagiso Rabada, who has sniped up 46 wickets at 20.3. He will be the player to watch out for.
My XI: Azhar Ali, Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Keshav Maharaj, Quinton de Kock (wk), Kagiso Rabada (c), Yasir Shah, Dale Steyn (vc), Mohammad Aamir
My fantasy team, along with a wicketkeeper, will have 4 batters, 2 all-rounders, and 4 bowlers.
Azhar Ali’s experiences, laced with Babar’s form and class, will be crucial if Pakistan are to pile up runs against the lethal pace attack of South Africa. Make no mistake, there will be no margin for error and the green tracks will only make life harder. Both these batters have the reputation of playing temperamental innings.
Markram has accumulated most runs for South Africa in Tests this year. In his 12-Test career, he has already scored 4 hundreds – 2 against Australia and one each versus Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. Opening with him, helping South Africa build a solid foundation, will be Dean Elgar. Let us not ignore the fact that Pakistan’s bowling is as potent as South Africa’s. Elgar will have to bat out of his skin to bat as long as possible and exhaust the Pakistani bowlers.
Haris is primarily a batter, but his slow left-arm orthodox can be handy when Sarfaraz has to rest one of his bowlers. If anything, his 7 wickets in 10 matches is evidence to the fact that he can be an effective bowler.
South Africa’s perennial search for a spinner came to end once they realized the potential of Keshav Maharaj. It took him only 2 years to seal his spot in the star-studded side. He isn’t a massive turner of the ball but knows where to pitch it and outfox the batters.
Sarfraz Ahmed has not been at his best of late, so it is safe to draft in de Kock in our team. Even if the conditions are not batting-friendly, de Kock’s ability to plunder runs comes to South Africa’s rescue. In addition, knowing his home conditions puts him in an advantageous position.
We already spoke about the bowlers who will be in the limelight: Yasir and Rabada. Let’s add Amir and Steyn to the mix. Amir was dropped after the England tour and Steyn has been sidelined due to injuries, but that does not mean that there’s no gas left in the tank. One good spell from these two and the batters will be staring down the barrel.