Hard luck, yes, but it cannot hide Pakistan’s average bowling display……
Pakistan started off the day brightly. Mohammad Abbas dismissed Hashim Amla early, while the other pacers displayed the attacking intent, which was required to defend such a meagre total. Even though, Pakistan have a great history of defending such totals, but one thing for sure, the current bowlers lack the cutting edge away from home, which their past masters possessed.
Pakistan won twice in South Africa and on both occasions, pace and cultured batting mattered very much. At Durban in 1998 and at Centurion in 2007, Shoaib Akhtar’s raw pace determined the fate of the Test matches to a great extent. Shoaib was at his menacing best on both occasions and in a matter of time, the Proteas batting line-up of Jac Kallis, Graeme Smith, Andrew Hudson, AB de Villiers and co fell apart. It was one hell of a bowling spell, which is still one of the most favourite stories among Pakistan cricket followers.
Before Shoaib, the pace and guile of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Imran Khan helped Pakistan to win matches away from home. Pace has always been a part and parcel of Pakistan bowling attack. But in the course of time, that pace has gone missing among the modern day Pakistani pacers. One could experience the flavor of the glorious past in a certain Wahab Riaz, but he is history now. The likes of Abbas, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Afridi or Hasan Ali does rattle the stumps or fetch wickets, but not at an express pace.
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The ghost of Centurion revisited at Cape Town as another soft signal by the on-field umpire for the close catch of Temba Bavuma was turned down when South Africa were 149 for 4 and it could have been 149 for 5, but whether Pakistan attack had the cutting edge to dismiss a gritty Faf du Plessis or a fluent Quinton de Kock remains a moot question.
Temba was still shaky, but Abbas, Amir or Afridi failed to exploit due to lack of pace. Even, an out of form Faf could cope easily and later on went on to end his lean-patch by scoring a hundred.
Just targeting the body by bowling short does not script hostility, but to unleash such, an extra bit of pace is required.
The Pakistani pacers did hit the deck hard and dragged the length shorter, but neither their deliveries had that extra bit of pace to rattle the timber nor that threat to put chills down the spine. The Pakistani pacers, later on, adjusted their length to a bit full and back-of-a-length. The results did come, but after the match had gone out of the grip. At least one or two pacers were needed to clock around 140-145 kmph on a consistent basis.
With the deck showing signs of uneven bounce and helpful to exploit the reverse swing, the Pakistani pacers failed to exhibit one of their favourite weapons since the late 70s. They bowled full, but sadly, contrast swing is not reverse swing and reverse swing can’t be executed if you bowl around 130-135 kmph.
The uneven bounce at Cape Town should have been helpful for Pakistan’s premium wicket-taker Yasir Shah, who has proved lethal in such conditions at the Middle East and in England as well. But, surprisingly, his legspinners were comfortably swept and negotiated by Bavuma and Faf.
Yasir loves to stick to his plans and doesn’t like to get out it and try some variations – mixing up the googlies with some quicker and straighter ones. Mushtaq Ahmed, while bowling that match-winning spell at Durban in 1998, utilized the uneven bounce smartly – bowled a bit quicker and dished out the googlies to the astonishment of South Africa batters. But, today, Yasir cut a frustrating figure.
The third umpire’s decision was a piece of hard luck, but it cannot hide the average bowling display by the Pakistani pacers and spinners on a Cape Town deck, which demanded wickets if Pakistan bowled a bit quicker and varied their deliveries. Certainly, this deck is not one of those where a team can take a lead more than 200 runs.