South Africa

Why Pakistan enjoy more success against Proteas in SA than most of the rest

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The Pakistan batters should enjoy batting on the Highveld surfaces. (PCB)

  • The Proteas would do well not to be complacent in their upcoming white-ball series against Pakistan, who have an above-average return playing in South Africa.
  • Pakistan mentor Misbah-ul-Haq believes there’s a simple reason for that: their team is traditionally ideally suited to local conditions.
  • He’s also not troubled by his charges having to just play at SuperSport Park and the Wanderers, where their history is a bit more chequered.

As much as the Proteas go into their ODI series against Pakistan with optimism, they would do well not to be complacent.

For the best part of the past decade, their opponents for the short white-ball tour – which commences in Centurion on Friday – have proven to be a stern challenge in South Africa.

Across the previous three series, Pakistan had won six out of 13 matches, including a historic win in late 2013 when they became the first side from the sub-continent to win a bilateral assignment in the country.

2012/13 and 2018/19’s battles were both won 3-2 by the Proteas.

In fact, it can even be argued that the foundation for the relative success on African soil was laid way back in 1994/95, when the visitors topped the log of the Nelson Mandela Quadrangular Series with five wins from six before losing to SA in the best-of-three final.

Pakistan’s ODI history in SA

1994/95: Played 8, Won 5, Lost 3 – Reached final of quadrangular series

1997/98: Played 7, Won 2, Lost 5 – Reached final of triangular series

2002/03: Played 5, Won 1, Lost 4

2006/07: Played 5, Won 1, Lost 3 – No-result in Gqeberha when they were in control and had momentum

2012/13: Played 5, Won 2, Lost 3

2013/14: Played 3, Won 2, Lost 1 – First sub-continent side to win bilateral series in SA

2018/19: Played 5, Won 2, Lost 3

Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s head coach, has little trouble finding a simple answer for it.

“I think especially with white-ball cricket, the pitches are very good, they’re true pitches, with good bounce and pace and for batters,” he said.

“In white-ball cricket, it’s easier to adjust to these conditions and you get good value for shots. Obviously Pakistan have also always had the luxury of good fast bowlers. That is the reason we’ve done well here.”

While the batters have only sporadically cashed in on generally good surfaces over the years, Pakistan’s tradition for producing a conveyor belt of accomplished seamers and quicks has been their real strength.

“In 2013-14, when we were here, we had Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, then we had youngsters like Bilawal Bhatti and a couple of others. That is the reason why Pakistan like playing here. No doubt South Africa are very good, they know their conditions well. But I think these conditions help Pakistan as a whole, the batsmen especially,” said Misbah.

2019 saw Shaheen Shah Afridi and Usman Shinwari come to the fore with the ball.

Naturally, such encouraging past showings comes with another benefit.

“Obviously, if you perform well consistently in certain conditions, like South Africa, previously, it gives you added confidence to perform well in future too,” said Misbah.

An irony, however, is that Pakistan will have to play the upcoming series at SuperSport Park and the Wanderers, two venues where their history is more chequered.

They did burst the Proteas’ bubble two years ago in becoming the first opposition to beat them in the so-called Pink ODI fixture.

Misbah isn’t worried about that.

“If I look back when I used to play, these two wickets at Centurion and Wanderers, I really enjoyed batting on them, the bounce and the pace are very true,” he said.

“As a batsman, you enjoy that, you get full value for your shots. Previously, some of the players have played here and performed in this team – Imam ul-Haq, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman were here.

“These players love that pace and bounce, now Mohammad Rizwan is in form, an excellent back foot player. Those previous series and experiences count, they play a role in your confidence as a player and team. When I was playing, suddenly, you just went to a ground where you’ve performed and your confidence level was always different.”

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