Pakistan versus South Africa Test series: Analysing our loss at Cape Town

Published: February 19, 2013

Saeed Ajmal's 10 scalps is a clear indication of the need for a second regular spinner. PHOTO: AFP

So we lost to South Africa in the Test series held in Cape Town. The debacle in the first match in Johannesburg was still digestible, due to the uncongenial conditions, lack of match practice, and the fact that Pakistan normally doesn’t play well in their first match in a series.

However, the fiasco in Cape Town is simply not tolerable, and for obvious reasons.

It was Pakistan’s best chance to level the series, particularly after reaching 338 in the first innings, and limiting South Africa to 110 for 5. It was Pakistan’s game to win, and they squandered the opportunity. Winning or losing is part of sports, but professional teams always analyse the factors behind their losses. Unfortunately, Pakistan keeps on reinforcing the failures.

Here are few reasons why Pakistan lost the Test match:

Poor team selection:

Let me start with the team selection. From ball one, the pitch offered assistance to spin bowling; and Pakistan let Abdur Rehman – who ranks among the top five Test bowlers – warm the benches. Instead, they opted for Tanvir Ahmad, which is utterly mind-boggling.

Firstly, he never merited to be in the 16-men squad at this late age (34). In Cape Town, his bowling speed was embarrassingly low (125 kilometres per hour) for any medium pacer, let alone a fast bowler of Pakistani tradition. I bet Younis Khan can bowl faster than him. With Decision Review System (DRS) in action, Abdur Rehman deserved to play on the abrasive, dry, and turning surface.

Saeed Ajmal’s 10 scalps is a clear indication of the need for a second regular spinner. Rehman is accurate and he takes wickets on such surfaces. Unfortunately, Pakistan had no other bowler to help Ajmal out.

Secondly, the selection of Sarfraz Ahmad is not impressive as well. It is true that he scores heavily in domestic cricket, but it is unfair to expect too much from a young keeper in an important tour.

Adnan Akmal was doing reasonably well and he should have been persisted. At the moment, Sarfraz cannot score 20 runs, which puts extra burden on an already-fragile batting line-up.

Poor captaincy:

Before this series, Misbah had been doing a reasonable job with the leadership. However, this tour has been a horrible experience for Misbah as a captain; not to mention his poor batting form.

Apart from his influence on the team selection, he made several ordinary decisions, in terms of fielding positions and bowling changes. In the first innings, he allowed too many open spaces for Pietersen and didn’t attack the tail-enders. More importantly, he did not bowl Hafeez on a turning track, especially in the second innings. On a track that offered enough help to Ajmal, it is brainless to give only one over to Hafeez in the second innings, especially if we consider his excellent record against left-handers with the new ball.

Negative/defensive batting mindset:

Tuk-Tuk rings the bell when you see the Pakistani batting line-up. Barring Younis Khan and Nasir Jamshed, all other batsmen have got a lackluster and defensive mindset. They consume too many deliveries, and score virtually nothing. Consequently, when they are dismissed, they put the incoming batsmen under immense pressure. For instance, in the second innings, Misbah (44 off 111 balls) and Azhar Ali (65 off 193 balls) built up a reasonable yet sluggish partnership.

In the match scenario, if they had scored a bit briskly, and added a few more runs, Pakistan could post a decent fourth innings total. Pakistan should revisit this mindset, and call back Umar Akmal in the Test team, who has the ability to score quickly in the middle order.

The Gul factor:

It’s time to realise that Umar Gul is not a good Test bowler. It’s time to stop calling him the spearhead of Pakistan’s Test bowling attack. He might bowl yorkers but he does not bowl them in Test matches, and he did not bowl a single in Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Can anyone ask him, why?

Additionally, he is a liability as a batsman, always playing an irresponsible stroke (for example, his first-ball duck in the second innings).

Our long tail:

Pakistan has the long tail. When Pakistan loses four or five top-order wickets, its tail begins. Sarfraz Ahmad contributes nothing, and then the last five are the most vulnerable, who can get out within the space of 10 balls. Perhaps, this is the right time for Pakistan to find some bowling all-rounders.

Lack of planning:

Is there anything like planning in Pakistan’s team management?

In the previous two or three team tours, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) selected Anwar Ali, Haris Sohail, Zulfiqar Baber, Asad Ali, Hammad Azam, Ahmad Shehzad, Umar Amin, Usman Salahuddin and Sadaf Hussain. These youngsters were either not tried or given limited opportunities, only to be dropped in the next team tour. On the other hand, some players, such as Imran Farhat, Mohammad Sami, Yasir Arafat, and Faisal Iqbal were given numerous chances, despite their continuous failures.

As an example, the third One Day Innings (ODI) against India was a dead-rubber, but the team management didn’t try new players, only to drop them for the South Africa tour.

Fielding and discipline:

Is there any need to mention the fielding and the bowling disciplines? In Cape Town, they dropped at least three catches, and took a wicket off a no-ball.

Ironically, this is precisely the margin of victory; South Africa won by four wickets.

Faisal Nadeem

Faisal Nadeem

An electrical engineer with a PhD in Computer Engineering, Faisal Nadeem's interests include sports, art, literature, culture and religion.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Fahim

    Good analysis of the defeat. Is there any chance to learn form it?Recommend

  • Yasin

    One more thing. They don’t pray as much as they used to in the past. I notice this trend after seniors like Injamam, Saeed Anwar, Saqleen etc. left. One can practice and plan as much you like but without blessings you can’t succeed. Prayer is very important in cricket. Recommend

  • B+

    “They consume too many deliveries, and score virtually nothing. Consequently, when they are dismissed, they put the incoming batsmen under immense pressure. ”

    Dude match finished on the fourth day and you are saying they consume too many deliveries, come on dude its a test cricket and consuming to many deliveries doesn’t put the incoming batsmen under pressure.Recommend

  • Ahsan Raza

    I stopped reading the moment I read ” They should recall Umar Akmal” Clearly the writer knows all about batting techniques of the subcontinent batsmen. Why not call Afridi back out the Retirement and he will win us the match in 25 balls with a barrage of 6s and 4s. Be Pragmatic, yes errors were made but they were playing against the best side in the world on their home turf and gave them a run for their money like no one had previously done before. Pakistan should take this as a learning curve because they are still relatively a young side establishing themselves are in my opinion are number 3 on test rankings. However 3rd test match is ideally set up with a full blooded Pakistan attack featuring Junaid,Irfan, Gul and Ajmal. I do understand that Gul’s bowling has been pretty ordinary but he is far superior than Rahat or other 3 in reserves.Recommend

  • Saqib Salman

    Apart from couple of factors mentioned above which obviously the whole world knows (Not selecting Abdur Rehman and the inclusion of Tanvir Ahmad and than Asking him to bowl with the new bowl) THE WHOLE ANALYSIS WAS CRAP. Do not want to go into the details. Please do not feel offended. CheersRecommend

  • Nadeem Javeri

    Agreed with writer’s opinion. Tanvir’s selection in squad is not justified and including him in playing 11 was a sin. With this speed he can term himself as world’s fastest spinner. Infact he was dropping not bowling his deliveries.

    Sarfraz poor batting show has affected his keeping. No doubt he was excellent in first test with gloves work but he was ordinary in second test. With no other backup he is automatic selection for third test but a repeat of performance like this means closure of International Cricket doors for him.

    Umar Gul should also consider seriously to quit test and focus only on ODIs and T20s.

    Pakistan need a good bowling allrounder like Shane Watson and Kallis. A batsman who can keep wickets. Unless we are better equipped winning test matches will always be tough. And a genuine quick bowler like Shoaib Akhtar who can bowl normally at 145 kmph.

    We claims we have cricket academies then why can’t we identify and nurture talents according to our needs. Recommend

  • rao khalid

    We should not lose hope in Misbah. He is the best captain in the side. In batting department we just need more support from our opening pair. They are really letting the team down in both the test matches. Secondly, young bowlers should be given chance like Sadaf Hussain, Anwar Ali or Assad Ali. They have the right potential. Fielding need to be improved as well. To conclude: we lost the test match because we make a strategical error by not trusting Abdul Rehman on this wicket. Even Ricky Ponting made those kind of mistakes in his career. So stop cursing Misbah. Recommend

  • Saqib Salman

    Yes you are right South Africans, Australians and English team always pray before starting the Match:P Recommend

  • Nitish

    What else can be expected from a team who got all out at a score of mere 49 runs……Shame shame…..Now whitewash is awaiting…..Recommend

  • Sufia

    so you just rehash all the random things you read on cricinfo (i know bc ive read this all there in different articles and different comments) and consolidate them into a single blog?? that too such a bad one that it shows you dont know anything about the way test cricket actually works?

    Umar Gul still has an unplayable yorker, he doesnt bother to use it is a different matter. He never claimed to be a batsman – though he is a very hard hitter of the ball when he does bat – if you are expecting hell pull off a blitz again, the way he did in the World T20 against SA, thats not happening again. Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali anchor the innings very well – if you cant understand why this is important (which was apparent when you suggested Umar Akmal’s quick scoring ability) you should just watch T20. I was actually surprised you did not advocate pulling Afridi out of retirement and asking him to play this series.

    as for Nitish, keep out of this – our lowest score in a test innings is still not 24 all out. you would be better off worrying about your own Indian team that gets thrashed even in its own backyard. Recommend

  • Muhammad

    “Apko daikh k zabt-e-tauleed jayiz maloom hoti hai” :)Recommend

  • Nitish

    @Muhammad:I dont understand Arabic otherwise i would have given befitting reply to you….Recommend

  • Yasin


    Do you understand what @Muhammad is telling you?

    You are one shameless character with no self respect.Recommend

  • Nitish

    Do you understand what @Muhammad is telling you?
    You are one shameless character with no self respect.

    If it is a personal attack with abusive words then I m not going to reply anyone.I can write anything about a country,caste,color,religion on this forum however ET may choose to not to publish it.But to abuse someone tells about your upbringings and that is how i m not brought up.Recommend

  • Impartial

    Great and to the point. Can’t be put better than that.
    Nothing new, except analysis taken out from crocinfo, n reset cliche.
    I too thought the same, if ET is publsihing such blogs just to fill the sports tab?Recommend

  • alipk

    please dont forget that although Gul wasnt upto the mark – two of the dropped catches in the first innings were off his bowling – he is the kind of player that he needs to be in groove – he tired too hard in the second innings and hence leaked a lot of runs.Recommend

  • Abdullah

    What lack of planning? Under Misbah Pakistan have only used 8 different batsmen in the top 6 over 19 tests. Stop confusing formats, day dreaming and start listening to the facts. There has been stability in selection. It is a no brainer. Don’t know how you can say such a thing if you have been following the test side properly.

    Umar Akmal has 2 50s in his last 22 test innings. He can’t even get into his domestic 4 day side when they are at full strength and doesn’t have a reputation as a responsible and mature player. How can he play tests? Who will you drop? You can’t drop anyone really apart from Hafeez who is the vice captain and won’t be dropped.

    Misbah and Azhar were well justified with their circumspect approach:

    A) Need to take the innings deep to allow Ajmal to bowl on a wearing track by the time SA are in to make him most effective
    B) Need to give the bowlers rest after 100 overs in the field, particularly with bowlers like Tanvir and Irfan who have fitness concerns and with the amount of bowling Ajmal did, so need to bat long here too
    C) They need to preserve wickets for day 4 so they can make most of a soft and old ball with more naturally free flowing batters to follow against tired down bowlers (Shafiq and Tanvir)
    D) With a lead of only 12 they didn’t have much to work with to force the issue with the bat
    E) They both have the temperament, mental toughness and principled attitude to absorb pressure when they are bogged down, playing maidens and kept quite and know to how to play the waiting game and come out of it

    If you care about run rates so much go and watch the BPL instead Recommend

  • Hazrat Qibla

    A very good nd expert analysis of our loss and the scene of cricket on foreign ground. I reckon the authors calling for Akmals to be in again is a bit over ambitious, specially for this format. Agreed with Gul`s fail in the test and it should be thought well for next series. YOUNAS did well again as he is master of this format.Recommend

  • Kaliwaal

    Nice analysis, as a nation we are good post match analyst. We lost mostly because of batting,not bowling. There is always Simcock (Peterson) exist in SA team that took match away from us. I agree that Abdur Rehman would have positive move, but again i think players, staff there know conditions better than us. Recommend

  • Cheema

    @Sufia: Gul averages 34+ in tests, which is below mark. He is good for limited overs, but not for tests. you r right on bringing back Afridi. you are joking, right?Recommend

  • jagjit sidhoo

    When one bowler 10 of the 14 wickets to fall it is quite apparent Pakistan went in with only one bowler. You can not win a match with one bowler Recommend

  • Not a Jiggalo

    Writer fails to address the fact that openers failed in both test matches resulting in excess pressure on the middle order in every innings. Instead, he goes on to blame the tail for not being able to perform. This is test cricket we’re talking about, and your analysis is juvenile. You were right about Abdur Rehman selection blunder though. Someone from the management has to answer for that. Recommend

  • Ali

    Very surprize selection of Tanveer Ahmed. Recommend

  • Sufia

    @Cheema: What are your fast bowling options then? Tanweer? The only two I see are Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan, and if you want to stretch it then Aizaz Cheema. The rest are all untried and untested. None of them has the experience that Gul has. Gul is a good bowler, it is a pity he doesnt use his brain too often because hes lethal when he does.

    and duh, I was joking about Afridi, I thought the author was joking when he recommended bringing in Umar Akmal for tests, so I figured if junior Akmal can be included, why not Afridi :)Recommend

  • Khan


    After losing a series from Pakistan on your home ground, your frustration is understandable :P Recommend

  • Cheema

    For ur kind information, ur domestic cricket is ful of talented fast bowlers. but they don’t play them at all. If Gul is not using his brain, then why he is playing for so long? If the bowlers (sadaf hussain, asad ali) that author mentioned are selected and never played, how can we get new players.
    Umar Akmal is young and talented, and he should have been groomed. How many tests did he play on dead UAE pitches? Not a single one. On the other hand, Azhar Ali is shining because he played all his cricket in UAE, where his mother-in-law can score runs. If first class is any criteria, Umar Akmal averages close to 48, while Azhar Ali is sitting at 36. don’t u worry, let Azhar Ali visit Australia, then I will ask you about his technique and temperament. In ODIs, Umar Akmal has a an average equal to Inzi, with a much better strike rate. If you can persist with one “brainless” cricketer like Umar Gul for a decade, then why not with another one for one or two years.
    I hope you don’t mind.
    Yes, Afridi was a joke. :)Recommend

  • Nemomil

    Yes, the boys didn’t pray very well.Recommend