Pakistan need not do anything drastically different from what they did a week ago in Karachi. They did create problems and dug holes for themselves but on the back of a debutant’s brilliance, their prowess in exploiting reverse swing, and their middle order’s tenacious application, they managed to secure an emphatic victory. The fact remains that Pakistan were not as clinical as they would have wanted and were certainly put under pressure, at times. However, it was in these crunch situations that matadors like Fawad Alam and Yasir Shah and promising players like Faheem Ashraf and Nauman Ali came to the fore and placed the home side on the driving seat.
Babar Azam returned to the playing XI after sitting out during the New Zealand tour due to a broken thumb. Having scored four centuries and as many half-centuries in his previous 12 innings, Pakistan captain had a rather quiet outing in Karachi – accumulating 37 runs across the two innings. He was undone by Keshav Maharaj on both occasions and would have a point to prove in Rawalpindi – a venue that could well be his personal favourite. He has two centuries in two innings at the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium.
Pakistan were mulling playing a four-pronged pace attack on a deck that is traditionally known to be quickest and the most pace-friendly in Pakistan. However, Babar Azam cleared the air around the team’s selection in a virtual press conference and stated that it is unlikely that they will pick four seamers for the 2nd Test, thus, hinting towards an unchanged Pakistan XI.
“The wicket in Rawalpindi seems similar to Karachi. The weather might be a little different though. The conditions here are always different and we are keeping that in mind. We will decide according to the situation on match day. I don’t think four seamers can play here but we will see the conditions and decide what’s best for the team,” said Babar Azam.
Pakistan’s Probable XI: Abid Ali, Imran Butt, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (c), Fawad Alam, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Faheem Ashraf, Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali, Nauman Ali, Shaheen Afridi
South Africa continue to find themselves being spun into a series of weaving webs, both on the field with their frailties against spin-bowling and off it. In the lead up to the 2nd Test, South Africa were dealt the news regarding the postponement of their home series against Australia – a series for which Cricket South Africa (CSA) had gone out of its way to make it happen given the financial turmoil the organization finds itself in.
They have much to think about the on-field matters, too, with this virtually being the last Test of their season now. After a triumphant home series against a depleted Sri Lankan side, Quinton de Kock’s men now stare into the gallows of yet another subcontinental defeat. The last time they won a Test match in Asia was back in July 2014. The Proteas had their moments in Karachi but the poor shot selection and the inapplicability shown by various batsmen did not help their cause.
South Africa’s team selection for the 2nd Test will majorly be determined by the injury concerns surrounding their spin-bowling department. Tabraiz Shamsi, who was set to feature in the 1st Test before being sidelined at the last moment due to a back spasm, has recovered from his injury but concerns regarding its recurrence remain. There is also question marks over Keshav Maharaj’s availability after the left-arm spinner experienced pain in his ribs and subsequent scans have shown a small tear. A final call on him will be taken in the morning of the match. The tourists are seriously considering Wiaan Mulder’s inclusion to the side who provides depth with both bat and ball and was highly impressive in the recent home series.
"Experience is sometimes physically going out there and experiencing it for yourself. We spoke about patience, the different mental approach, the fact that the run rates won't be 3.5 like in South Africa and when you defend, you have to defend with a lot of intensity. But watching them play, the guys understood that what we spoke about was happening right in front of us,” said South Africa’s head coach Mark Boucher.
South Africa’s Probable XI: Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, Quinton de Kock (c & wk), Temba Bavuma, Wiaan Mulder, George Linde/Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi/Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje.