With mystery surrounding exactly what kind of conditions they’ll face in the first Test against Pakistan on Tuesday, the Proteas are trying to cover all their bases.
JOHANNESBURG – With mystery surrounding exactly what kind of conditions they’ll face in the first Test against Pakistan starting on Tuesday, the Proteas are trying to cover all their bases at training.
“We’ve kind of looked at anything and everything,” Faf du Plessis said on Saturday. “It’s a case of over preparing on; spin conditions, reverse swing balls, and also an element of what it looked like 13 years ago, when there were flat wickets. We’ve tried to do as best as we can.”
There is very little knowledge about what to expect from the pitch at the National Stadium in Karachi where the first Test starts on Tuesday. Thirteen years ago, Mark Boucher, now South Africa’s head coach, played in the Test there when Jacques Kallis scored hundreds in both innings to help set up a comfortable victory.
But with Pakistan under enormous pressure following a poor tour to New Zealand recently, the South Africans are expecting the home team to follow the route used by India and Sri Lanka in the last few years when those teams have faced South Africa and create tracks that assist the spinners.
“I think it will be more subcontinent-like than it used to be in 2007; spinners will be in the game more,” said Du Plessis.
Pakistan’s selection hinted at that, with three frontline spinners, and an extra slow bowler in all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz, who bowls slow left arm orthodox.
South Africa has struggled against that kind of attack in that region, having not won in the subcontinent since Hashim Amla led the Proteas to victory against Sri Lanka in Galle in 2014. They’ve played 11 Tests in the region since with three draws the best result in that time.
There’s little experience of playing in the subcontinent in the current squad, and Du Plessis’ as one of the few to have played there more than once will be a critical source for information and advice for his teammates. “We are working on a few scoring options, making sure you are looking at two or three ways of getting off strike,” he said.
“The challenge for a batter, is when a spinner bowls a lot of balls at a batter and you feel like you’re stuck and can’t get off strike and he settles into bowling … if you let him bowl at you he’ll bowl really well so you have to have plans to get ones off him, or scoring options in terms of boundaries as well.”
For the seam bowlers the challenge will be getting the ball into a condition in which they can make it reverse swing – and doing so legally. “The umpires and rules on trying to scuff up the ball have become very strict with everything that has happened,” said Du Plessis, who has first hand knowledge of how strict those rules are including from one incident involving a zip against Pakistan in 2013.
“Bouncing the ball in has become less of late … the area next to the pitch is quite moist, so general scuffing up doesn’t happen as it used to.”