Pakistan outplay Proteas in first test

18 October 2013

The Proteas slipped to a seven-wicket loss to Pakistan on Thursday in the first test in Abu Dhabi, bringing to an end South Africa’s 15-test unbeaten run. “I have to say that they have outplayed us, so it’s very disappointing,” captain Graeme Smith said after the game.

The match exposed Smith and company’s lack of game time. They had last played a test in February, ironically against Pakistan in South Africa, which ended in victory by an innings and 18 runs and wrapped up a 3-0 series whitewash. The ruthless execution that the Proteas displayed in that series was missing for most of the test in the UAE, however.

There were some good performances, including 110 from Hashim Amla in South Africa’s first innings, and 90 from AB de Villiers in the second innings, but the batting was largely disappointing, as was the team’s bowling performance in Pakistan’s first innings.

Ineffectual

South Africa managed only 249 and 232 in their two innings, while the front-line bowlers were ineffectual in Pakistan’s big first innings of 442 with both the first and second new balls.

On a positive note, the opening pair of Dale Steyn and Vernon Philander were much sharper the second time around, but they were never going to bowl South Africa to victory with Pakistan requiring only 40 to win.

When Pakistan’s captain Misbah ul-Haq smashed a six off the second last ball of the 14th over of their second innings to win the game, it put an exclamation point on a result that had been unexpected. One could not argue, though, that the Pakistani victory was not deserved.

“Pakistan have played well in these conditions of late,” Proteas’ captain Graeme Smith said at a post-match press conference.

‘A tough tour after a long lay-off’

Addressing his team’s lack of playing time together, he added: “I think we have maximised the preparation time that we have had. It’s always difficult to replicate test matches when you haven’t played one in six months. We came together after the Champions League and the guys have worked extremely hard and always knew this would be a tough tour after a long lay-off.

“We are hurting,” Smith admitted. “The team has too much ability to make this a habit. Teams can play well, you do lose, that’s natural in sport, but the standards that we set for ourselves means that we should have the ability to bounce back.

“The positive is that we were better with the new-ball today than we were in Pakistan’s first innings. That is a big step in the right direction. After the strong opening partnership they had in the first innings it was nice to get things right.”

‘Really unbelievable’

For Misbah ul-Haq, victory over the world’s number one ranked team was sweet. “It’s really unbelievable and a much-needed win for us, it was a team effort and everyone contributed,” he said at the post-match presentations.

Looking ahead to the second test, he added: “Conditions will remain the same in Dubai, maybe more bounce and spin. So they are likely to suit us. But SA have played there before too, so we need to repeat the performance.”

The second test starts on Wednesday, 23 October. South Africa will need to win it to avoid their first away series loss since 2006.