Can Pakistan fire up in Cape Town?
My overriding feeling following the first test at the Wanderers was two-fold. To say I was disappointed in Pakistan is an understatement, but acknowledgement of an outstanding South African performance is very much warranted. Steyn was simply magnificent and will be lucky to ever replicate that devastation. It was an honour to call his work and witness his excellence first-hand.
Pakistan were pretty woeful. It was not as though they did not know what to expect. The Hawk-Eye evidence of the groupings from Steyn and Philander was unyielding and due to their accuracy and swing, the build-up of pressure was relentless. During the carnage of Pakistan's first innings they bowled an astonishing sequence of 47 dot balls together. I think we all know that when that happens rewards are imminent. The term 'rabbits in the headlights' comes to mind.
Some aspects of Pakistan's first innings batting were particularly worrying. Steyn's destructive brilliance was achieved at a controlled pace coupled with superb rhythm. Rarely did he crank things up to the velocity he reached against New Zealand. That being the case, why did Pakistan's top order generally appear so hurried and out of tune with the pace of the game? Why did they continue to attempt to chase wide deliveries and importantly choose to play with that infuriating angled blade that presented catching practice to those behind the stumps and hovering in the slips cordon?
That simply spelt a dramatic and unacceptable lack of planning. Surely they knew that conditions at the Bullring would be challenging due to the extra bounce and swing they were to encounter.
They failed miserably in the first innings and showed somewhat better resistance and application in the second. However they still fell well short of expectations.
What can we expect from the visitors at Newlands? Although the characteristics of the pitch will be different, it will be a willing track. Why wouldn't South Africa want to influence the nature of the pitch after the implosion in Johannesburg?
I have spoken to Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore a couple of times since the demolition of the initial test. He assures me his charges have been working hard mentally and importantly technically to look to combat the powerhouse seam department they are up against.
I am afraid I have bad news for them. They are entering Vern's Den and he will delight in exposing any technical deficiencies in his own backyard. While we will see an improvement from the visitors, the nagging metronomic accuracy and sufficient seam movement at a slightly slower pace will undo them again.
Many sides over the years have arrived in South Africa prepared and ready to do battle on surfaces which ask many questions. This often equates to not only relying on team coaching methods but working out your own game to adjust to the opposition and conditions to give yourself every chance to succeed as an individual.
Pakistan's batsmen have not done that and are now having to push the fast-forward button and play catch-up mid-series. Pride in performance should have ensured they were far further advanced upon arrival.
They will again suffer the curse of Vern, Steyn and Morkel.