Pakistan ready to rumble, not fizzle
SA COULD be tempted to grab Pakistan by the throat with an all-seam attack in the first Test at the Wanderers tomorrow.
The match is being played on one of the country's faster pitches and against opponents who struggle to adapt to South African conditions.
The Proteas have three of the most lethal fast bowlers in the game at their disposal, in the shape of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel.
Their spin options, by contrast, are less impressive. Robin Peterson was declared fit yesterday, but his hand injury will not have healed completely by tomorrow, and the other specialist slow bowler in the squad is Imran Tahir, whose confidence has surely not recovered from conceding the worst figures in Test history, 0/260, against Australia in Adelaide last November.
So, there is an argument to be made for letting fly at the visitors with all pace guns blazing. But will the Proteas do so?
"We need to see what the weather and the overhead conditions do, and there's still a lot of grass on the pitch," was Morkel's reply to that question yesterday.
"We've tended to start well by landing the first punch as a bowling unit."
But that is neither confirmation, nor denial. The Proteas won't, however, have forgotten that the Pakistanis brandish a decent seam attack themselves - what with Umar Gul and Junaid Khan in their quiver.
Even so, Morkel was keen to remind the Pakistanis who and where they were playing.
"It's the sort of wicket I've enjoyed bowling on; it suits my game," he said.
"They've had one warm-up game - a draw against an SA Invitation XI in East London - and they are going to be under pressure. I think it will take them a couple of overs to get used to the conditions ..."
But he wasn't gung-ho enough to expect Pakistan to roll over as pathetically as New Zealand, who recently lost two Tests by an innings against South Africa.
"They have quality and experience with Younis Khan and Misbah ul-Haq in the middle order. They are the key guys we need to target and get out early.
"They can counter-punch, and it's going to be important to keep adding to the pressure."
But Younis didn't wait for an opportunity to counter-punch yesterday. "We are ready for the big rumble," Younis said. "We are positive. We know that if you want to win against SA, you must play positive cricket."