A confident Pakistan will look to their spinners to sweep the two-match series against a depleted South Africa when the second and final Test starts in Dubai today.
Pakistan’s spin duo of Saeed Ajmal and left-armer Zulfiqar Babar shared 11 wickets between them to guide their team to a seven-wicket win in the first Test in Abu Dhabi, only their fourth win in 22 Tests against South Africa.
Even the pacemen Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan took four wickets apiece as a formidable South Africa batting slumped to 249 and 232 in the two innings, with only Hashim Amla (118) and A.B. de Villiers (90) showing some resistance.
Pakistan rode on a brilliant 146 by opener Khurram Manzoor — the highest by a Pakistan batsman in a Test against South Africa — and a responsible 100 by captain Misbah-ul-Haq to post a big 442-run total.
South Africa will be hard pressed to maintain their unbeaten run in an away series since losing in Sri Lanka in 2006.
More so as Amla and Dale Steyn, the world’s top Test batsman and bowler respectively, may not be available for the match. Amla has returned home for the birth of his child, while Steyn is nursing a hamstring injury.
Left-hander Dean Elgar is due to replace Amla, while Rory Kleinveldt is likely to fill in for Steyn.
South Africa will also look at their spin option to replace left-armer Robin Peterson, who failed to get a single wicket in the first Test, with Pakistan-born legspinner Imran Tahir.
South African captain Graeme Smith expressed confidence his team can bounce back.
“We haven’t been in this position too often and with the standards that we set ourselves, we should have the ability to bounce back,” Smith said.
“The motivation is there. We are really motivated to win the next Test match. That’s got to be our ultimate goal. We have to focus on making sure our plans are better,” he added.
On the contrary, Pakistan have a settled squad and will not tinker with the winning combination.
However, despite all the plusses, Misbah warned against complacency.
“We are really playing the top side in the world, so our focus is on the next game,” Misbah said, aiming to add to Pakistan’s only series win over South Africa in 2003.
Misbah denied he wants a batting track in Dubai to draw the Test.
“I don’t think so, we have given clear indications to the groundsman. We want a result — no doubt we want to exploit our home advantage and we will do that, but we want a result,” Misbah said.