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Cricket | South Africa

Saeed Ajmal © Gallo Images

Pakistan up for the challenge

Pakistan may be touring South Africa with a relatively inexperienced squad but they would be up for the challenge of taking on the Proteas, Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said in Johannesburg on Monday.

“This team has done really well over the last two and a half years. It’s a big challenge to come here and play against the No 1 test side in their conditions - it’s really tough.

"But this team is ready to take on new challenges, and we really want to perform well here in South Africa,” Misbah told a news conference ahead of the tree-test series against South Africa.

Misbah and coach Dav Whatmore were under no illusions as to the size of the challenge that lay ahead of them as they attempt to beat South Africa in their own backyard.

“South Africa’s batting, with Smith, Kallis and Amla is very strong, and we will have to bat really well against the bowling of Steyn, Morkel and Philander,” said Misbah.

“But this is a young side – none of the bowlers except Umar Gul have ever toured here, and they love to take on challenges. It’s time to take it one step further.”

For Pakistan, the South African conditions are a double-edged sword. On the one hand, as Misbah pointed out, their bowlers will enjoy the extra pace and bounce on offer.

“It’s a matter of adapting to the conditions. Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan and Saeed Ajmal will enjoy the conditions, while the batsmen will have to focus on dealing with the bounce and pace to be ready for the first test.”

“If we hit the right areas, we feel we have the players to put pressure on the opposition,” said Whatmore.

One player who could do just that is Mohammad Irfan, at just over seven-foot tall, the left-arm paceman is hard to miss and should be well suited to South African pitches.

“He’s earned his place in the squad, and while he is yet to play a test match, he’s done really well domestically and in the shorter versions of the game. It remains to see whether he gets selected, but he’ll certainly extract the bounce on these pitches.”

One area which is a concern for the tourists is the lack of test cricket they have played recently. They are coming off a morale-boosting 2-1 one-day international away series victory over India but have not played a test series since losing to Sri Lanka in July last year.

Misbah was under no illusions as to how the lack of test cricket would hamper his team but he was confident that they could overcome this.

“As a team it is very difficult when you not playing a format on a regular basis. You really have to work hard. But we have to adjust, you could say it is a limitation for us but we are professionals, we have to do well,” he said.

Pakistan will play three tests against South Africa with the first match set to start on February 1 in Johannesburg.

The second test begins on February 14 in Cape Town before the final match starts on February 22 in Centurion.

The tour also includes two T20 internationals and five one-day internationals.


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