The Proteas have rounded off their home summer with a Test series victory over Sri Lanka but now face uncertainty as they prepare to face Pakistan away from home.
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South Africa will tour Pakistan for the first time in 14 years with the first engagement being a two-Test series that is shaping up to be a monumental challenge.
In recent outings in Asia, the Proteas have been well off the pace and unable to compete with their opponents in spin-friendly conditions.
They will face a Pakistan team fresh off a pair of wallopings in New Zealand, but that experience will likely only serve to motivate the hosts to take the Proteas down a peg.
The loss of experienced quicks will mean that Quinton de Kock’s team will rely heavily on their spinners, who have improved tremendously since the last time the team set foot in Pakistan.
An area that hasn’t improved is the Proteas batting which remains a major concern even at home and a massive liability in Asia.
Faf du Plessis is going to have plenty of work to do to hold the middle-order together while Dean Elgar, the leading runscorer in the recently concluded series against Sri Lanka will have to try to address his weakness against spin.
The Proteas are far from being favourites, however, Mark Boucher is still going to be under pressure to deliver a more competitive outing than on the teams 2019 tour to India. Boucher needs the team to demonstrate progress to keep the pressure off himself and his backroom staff.
The top six at the very least appears more settled than it did 12 months ago, although Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen missed on opportunities to put in longer shifts in the middle against Sri Lanka.
There will be a lot of talk about plans and resilience in the coming weeks but what will really count is time in the middle and runs made against Pakistan.
A series win might well be beyond their abilities but the Proteas need to show they are competitive and avoid embarrassment in Karachi and Rawalpindi.
Written by James Richardson.