Pakistan vs. South Africa Test Match Series Review

9 February 2021 | ,

And that’s all she wrote. The Pakistan vs. South Africa Test Match Series Review was hyped up to be something special and of big significance. The first test series for a visiting South Africa to Pakistan since 2007. This would also be the first time for majority of the players to play in Pakistan itself. Those players who have played against Pakistan would have done so either on home soil or at a neutral venue such as Abu Dhabi or Dubai. All because of ongoing security fears.

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With players already having to live in bio-bubbles because of the COVID pandemic, the added security surely could play a role on the mental aptitude of the players. But what the added security did give us was South Africa playing in the subcontinent against a familiar foe. We sure did enjoy watching both tests.

Team Performance Coming into Series

Pakistan came into the test series with a LLDDL record. With their most recent loss against New Zealand resulting in an innings and 176 runs. They also only once scored more than 300 runs in their last 10 innings played. South Africa on the other hand came of their first series win – against Sri Lanka – since 2019 and was hoping to carry the momentum into the Pakistan series. South Africa’s recent form read, WWLLL.

1st Test Highlights and Summery

The first test was played in Karachi between Jan 26 – Jan 29 2021. 2 Players made their test debut, both in the Pakistani team. They were Imran Butt and Nauman Ali. The latter also picking up a match defining five-wicket haul in South Africa’s 2nd innings.

South Africa never really got going, posting a mediocre total of just 220 all out in their first innings. Dean Elgar was the leading run scorer with a hard fought 58 of 106 balls. With no real threatening partnership and with Pakistan picking up wickets at regular intervals, the visitors found themselves on the backfoot early in the test.

Pakistan came out with intent, but 2 quick wickets by Rabada had the hosts pegged back for a while. Azar Ali stood firm while 2 more quick wickets fell around him, and Pakistan found themselves on 4-27. That is until Fawad Alam joined him at the crease. The pair started the rebuilding process and added 94 runs before Ali was removed. Alam stuck around a little longer and again formed a strong partnership with Faheem Ashraf when they put 102 runs on the board taking Pakistan into the lead. Pakistan finished their 1st innings on 378, a lead of 158 with Fawad Alam scoring a 109 runs.

Can South Africa Rebuild?

With a mountain to climb South Africa started their 2nd innings with caution, it paid off with Elgar and Markram adding 48 runs before Elgar lost his wicket for 29. It looked like Markram finally started finding some form when he and Rassie van der Dussen put on 127 for the 2nd wicket partnership. South Africa looked like they were rebuilding and doing so well. The score 175/1.

It was not to be. The loss of van der Dussen’s wicket sparked a massive collapse. The only notable score was Bavuma’s 40. South Africa managing to add only 58 runs to their overnight score before being bowled out for 245, a lead of 88.

Although Pakistan lost 2 early wickets, both taken by Nortje, in their chase of 88, they were not going to let this win slip away. The hosts reached their total in 23.5 overs.

It was only Pakistan’s fifth win over South Africa while it was South Africa’s eighth successive defeat on the subcontinent.

The 2nd test only a couple of days away, South Africa with a lot of troubleshooting to do. Can they level the series?

2nd Test Highlights and Summery

Still licking their wounds from the loss, a couple of days back, South Africa was hoping they could turn things around and level the series in Rawalpindi.

Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat. South Africa started well with Maharaj, who would end the innings with figures of 3-90, picked up the wicket of Imran Butt in the 12th over. Maharaj in his next over removed the new batsmen, Azhar Ali for 0. In 15th over, Nortje picked up his 1st of what would be a 5-for when he removed Abid Ali for 6. Pakistan finding themselves in a difficult position on 3-22.

With Azam and Alam at the crease the pair stood firm putting together a 4th wicket partnership of 123 runs. Bavuma ran out Alam with a clear hit of the stumps when he tried to pinch a single on the offside. Pakistan continued to put meaningful partnership together but apart from Faheem Ashraf scoring an unbeaten 78, there we no other batsmen making it into double figures. With Maharaj and Nortje cleaning up the tail with relative ease. Nortje ending his innings with figures of 5-56. Pakstan 1st innings total, 272.

How will South Africa Respond?

South Africa started in familiar fashion by losing one of their openers cheaply. First to go was SA’s highest scoring batsmen in the 1st test 1st innings Elgar. Out for 21. Van der Dussen was out the very next ball. South Africa lost wickets at regular intervals with Faf Du Plessis out on 17 while batting with Bavuma. Bavuma managed to carry his bat to the end of the innings, this does not mean he scored a lot of runs, ending the day on an unbeaten 44. South Africa losing 5 wickets for 37 runs in their 1st innings.

Pakistan started their 2nd innings with a 71-run lead. South Africa had an early breakthrough getting Imran Butt out for 0. Again, Pakistan managed to create valuable partnerships. The standout batsmen of Pakistand’s 2nd innings came from the new captain, Mohammad Rizwan, ending the innings unbeaten on 115. Although South Africa took regular wickets, it just was not enough. Standout bowling performance coming from George Linde, picking up his first 5-wicket haul. South Africa need a total of 370 runs to win the match. If it was to be done, would have been the highest successful run chase in Pakistan.

Can South Africa Level The Series?

It was going to be a monumental ask. But we know SA was capable of chasing down 370. They had the time and they definitely have the talent.

South Africa started well, with Markram finally standing firm and reading the ball managed to build meaningful partnerships. A solid 94-run partnership with van der Dussen for the 2nd wicket, followed but a 106-run partnership with Bavuma after Faf fell for 5. South Africa looked good and in the driving seat on 241 for 3. Requiring only 129 runs for a famous victory, it was not to be. Markram, scoring his first century since 2018 fell shortly after lunch. The very next ball removed captain de Cock, leaving Bavuma and the tail to chase 129 runs. South Africa lost their last 7 wickets for a meagre 33 runs, and with that the chance to level the series.

Hasan Ali, picking up another 5 wickets to add to is 1st innings 5-wicket haul ended the match with figures of 10-114. A man of the match performance. This was Pakistan’s first series win over South Africa in 17 years.

Takeaway of the Test Series

This loss also means South Africa have now lost four of their last 5 test series and 10 of their last 13 test matches.

Although South Africa have some positives to take away from the defeat, such as Markram finding some form there is a lot for the team and staff to consider. De Kock has struggled for runs since taking over the captaincy from Faf, but at least it looks like he will be relieved of the burden.

This leaves South Africa with a Test captaincy dilemma. At least one they do not have to rush to fill. With the incoming tour of Australia cancelled as result of Covid fears, there is time. South Africa is not scheduled to play a test match again during the summer.

Next South Africa shift their attention to the shorter format of the game. 3 T20I scheduled, the first on the 11th of February. All to be played in Lahore. Let’s hope they can get back to winning ways.

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