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Best of the Tests: Pakistan vs South Africa


South_Africa_Pakistan_Test_CricketPakistan, having recently suffered a rare defeat on their adopted home turf of the UAE at the hands of New Zealand, are set for an even stiffer challenge in the form of a three-match series in South Africa, which commences at Centurion on Boxing Day. Pakistan’s Test record against South Africa has been disappointing – they have won only four and lost 12 out of 23 matches so far. Likewise, on South African soil, they have won only twice and lost nine times in 12 Tests.

As we count down to the start of what will be Pakistan’s sixth Test tour of South Africa, here is a look back at six noteworthy matches played between the two teams over the years.

The inaugural meeting – Only Test, Johannesburg, 1994-95

The first Test skirmish between Pakistan and South Africa was a one-off affair at the Wanderers, and it produced a lopsided result in favour of the home team. Pakistan drew first blood, reducing South Africa to 59/3 after Hansie Cronje elected to bat. Opener Gary Kirsten (62) anchored the top order, before being fifth out at 168. At this point, Jonty Rhodes (72) and Brian McMillan (113) joined forces and proceeded to deflate Pakistan with a sixth-wicket partnership worth 157.

If that was not enough, Fanie de Villiers crashed a rapid 66 from number ten to swell the total to 460. De Villiers starred with his pace too, taking 6/81 as Pakistan folded for 230, despite captain Salim Malik’s 99. South Africa took total control by declaring at 259/7, and then had Pakistan tottering at 5/3 in their chase of 490. Inzamam-ul-Haq scored 95, but could not prevent Pakistan from a hiding by 324 runs. De Villiers finished with a career-best match haul of 10/108.

A Pakistani capitulation – Third Test, Faisalabad, 1997-98

The series was up for grabs after draws in the first two Tests at Rawalpindi and Sheikhupura. South Africa endured a nightmarish start on the first morning, slumping to 64/6 against the pace and swing of Wasim Akram (4/42) and Waqar Younis, and the leg-spin of Mushtaq Ahmed. Gary Kirsten played the saviour, carrying his bat for an assured 100* and sharing in an eighth-wicket partnership of 124 with Pat Symcox (81) that dragged South Africa to a respectable 239.

Pakistan took a lead of 69 even though they had fallen to 80/5, thanks to Inzamam (96) and Moin Khan (80) adding 144 for the sixth wicket. Symcox came in as a nightwatchman late on the second day, and ended up top-scoring with 55 in South Africa’s total of 214. Chasing a modest 146, Pakistan stunningly imploded from 23/0 to 31/5 against the disciplined pace bowling of Shaun Pollock (5/38). They failed to recover from this burst, and were shot out for a paltry 92.

Delight in Durban – Second Test, Durban, 1997-98

Pakistan were in South Africa for a return leg just four months after the surrender at Faisalabad. Azhar Mahmood, who had already scored two hundreds against South Africa – 128 on debut at Rawalpindi and 136 in the drawn first Test at Johannesburg – was at it again, as he rescued his team from 89/5 with an attacking 132 from number seven. Mahmood dominated a ninth-wicket stand of 80 with Shoaib Akhtar, steering the total to 259. Speedster Allan Donald collected 5/79.

Akhtar (5/43) then helped Pakistan to a lead of 28, even as Pollock impressed with 70*. Saeed Anwar (118) and captain Aamer Sohail added 101 for the first wicket, but Pakistan could not solidify and were limited to 226, Pollock taking 6/50. Chasing 255, South Africa slid to 133/8 in the face of Mushtaq Ahmed (6/78), before Mark Boucher (52) and Fanie de Villiers shared 86 for the ninth wicket. However, Waqar took two in three balls to seal a famous 29-run win for Pakistan.

Hosts outgunned – Second Test, Port Elizabeth, 2006-07

Pakistan came out all guns blazing on the first day as they sent South Africa packing for 124. The Proteas were reduced to 58/5, and never really got going. Akhtar (4/36) was the pick of the bowlers, with leg-spinner Danish Kaneria (3/36) not too far behind. The fiery Makhaya Ntini (6/59) had Pakistan at 19/3 before Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf put on 60 for the fourth wicket. But South Africa struck regularly, and the score read 191 at the fall of the ninth wicket.

Captain Inzamam, batting at number eight due to a shoulder niggle, scored 92* and added 74 for the last wicket with Mohammad Asif, giving Pakistan a lead of 141. South Africa clawed back with 331 in the second dig, thanks to Jacques Kallis’ 91. In the absence of an injured Akhtar, Asif snared 5/76. Chasing 191, Pakistan appeared to be losing the plot at 92/5. However, Younis (67*) and Kamran Akmal (57*) put on an unbroken 99 to hand the visitors a five-wicket victory.

King Kallis at his best – First Test, Karachi, 2007-08

Kallis reserved one of his finest performances for Karachi’s National Stadium, a venue where Pakistan had hitherto lost just once in 39 Tests. South Africa set the tone by piling up 450 after deciding to bat, with Kallis scoring an assertive 155. Captain Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs added 87 for the first wicket, after which Hashim Amla (71) and Kallis took over, putting on 170 for the fourth wicket. AB de Villiers was among the runs as well, as he struck a rapid 77.

Left-arm spinner Paul Harris (5/73) then helped restrict Pakistan to 273. The total would have been much smaller had skipper Shoaib Malik not scored 73, as the score once read 149/6. Kallis produced the goods again in the second innings, this time with 100*, as South Africa declared at 264/7 to set Pakistan a target of 424. Paceman Dale Steyn (5/56) removed the openers with only 20 on the board, and despite an elegant 126 from Younis Khan, Pakistan went down by 160 runs.

Pakistan’s lost opportunity – Second Test, Cape Town, 2012-13

Having lost the first Test at Johannesburg by 211 runs, Pakistan gave South Africa a run for their money before losing their way in the second innings. South Africa’s pace attack had Pakistan on the mat at 33/4 after 17 overs, before a splendid fifth-wicket alliance of 219 between Younis Khan and Asad Shafiq, both of whom scored 111, injected parity in the contest. Both the batsmen fell to Vernon Philander (5/59), but they had done enough to boost the final total to 338.

Off-spinner Saeed Ajmal (6/96) had South Africa at 164/6 in reply, but AB de Villiers (61) and Robin Peterson (84) ensured that Pakistan’s lead was trimmed to just 12. Pakistan had themselves to blame as they crumbled from 114/3 to 169 all out in the second innings (Philander taking 4/40), leaving South Africa 182 to chase. A composed 58 from Hashim Amla duly guided the Proteas to a four-wicket win. Ajmal took four more wickets to finish the match with 10/147.

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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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