South Africa vs Pakistan: First Test Preview

Cricket ball sits on pitch

We preview the first Test between South Africa and Pakistan set to get underway on Boxing Day at SuperSport Park Centurion. 

Pakistan face a stern test of their long-format credentials starting on Boxing Day when they take on the Proteas at SuperSport Park Centurion.

Mickey Arthur’s men were surprisingly turned over by New Zealand in the UAE while South Africa’s home form this calendar year has seen them claim victory against Australia and India.

South Africa vs Pakistan | 26 December – 30 December | SuperSport Park Centurion

To Win Match
South Africa 5/10
Draw 9/2
Pakistan 7/2

South Africa
There are a couple of unfortunate injury problems that Ottis Gibson has to deal with in the lead up to the first Test. Lungi Ngidi was never going to partake after picking up an injury during the Mzansi Super League. More recent developments, however, have seen Vernon Philander forced out of the side after picking up a finger injury. Dane Paterson has been called into the squad for the injured all-rounder.

This means that Dale Steyn and Kagiso Rabada will lead the attack with Duane Olivier and Paterson playing as the secondary seamers. Keshav Maharaj – who enjoyed a solid first-class outing against the Lions for the Dolphins last week – will play as the specialist spinner.

Batting wise is where things get more interesting. Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram will open the batting with Hashim Amla coming in at three with skipper Faf du Plessis in at four. It’ll be interesting to see whether Temba Bavuma or Theunis de Bruyn gets in at five. Of course, Zubayr Hamza is also in the mix. One thing’s for sure, there are plenty of for that number five position in a side that otherwise picks itself.

Weather-wise, everything looks good for the five days with the occasional afternoon thundershower typical of the Highveld set to affect the last few days. We will almost certainly see a result in this match.

Pakistan
The Pakistanis had a pretty good warm-up match against a South African Invitational XI, winning by six wickets. Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Imam-ul-Haq and Haris Sohail all got amongst the runs. This is probably the one area of the game where the tourists will really need to shine if they want to make a contest of this series.

South African surfaces will certainly be spicier than anything that they’re used to in the UAE where the decks in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, so dealing with the pace and control of Steyn and Rabada is of teh utmost importance. In other team news, the Asians will have their bowling ranks bolstered by the return of both Mohammad Amir and Shadab Khan, both of whom can turn a Test match on its head.

How well they, and indeed the rest of the Pakistani attack, fare against a stacked South African top and middle order remains to be seen. They’ll be targeting the Elgar and Markram, both of whom have struggled a little bit in the Test arena of late. A couple of early wickets will certainly set the cat amongst the pigeons, especially without Philander’s ability with the bat in the lower order. 

Verdict: South Africa 5/10
Pakistan will certainly provide a stern test of South Africa’s resolve, but you’d expect the hosts to get the better of the tourists who do struggle a bit away from the UAE. Get on the Proteas to claim the series-opener at Centurion. 

Written by Jason Dewey for Hollywoodbets

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