We look forward to three possibilities on day two of the third Test between South Africa and Pakistan at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on Saturday, writes SIMON LEWIS.
1) A big Imam-ul-Haq century
Imam-ul-Haq is a terrific batsman who is still in the first year of his Test career. He plays it nice and straight and is a confident batsman, so the Wanderers is tailor-made for him to knock up a big century to give Pakistan a substantial first-innings lead.
He’s played nine Tests since his debut against Ireland last May, with a highest score of just 76 and an average of 27.00, but for my money the 23-year-old is bursting with potential and the Wanderers wicket will suit his style of play down to the ground.
2) Olivier and Philander to run through the Pakistan top order
Vernon Philander did the early damage just before the close of play and was looking very dangerous on that Wanderers track, while Duanne Olivier will be eager to try and secure a place in the side for the series against Sri Lanka, so he’s likely to bend the back to put the Pakistan batsmen and the Proteas selectors under pressure.
Pakistan showed that when you put the effort in on this track and bowl the right channels you get results, and the Proteas pair will have plenty of backup firepower from Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn, both of whom will be fired up to hit the Pakistan batsmen hard. It will take a huge effort from our bowlers, but this is where my head is veering, thinking ahead to day two.
3) Pakistan to score 400-plus
The Wanderers wicket holds the potential for a flood of wickets to fall, as we saw in the final session of day one when nine wickets tumbled in two hours. Terrifying for batsmen to contemplate. However, when the batsmen were well set at the crease, Aiden Markram, Hashim Amla, Theunis de Bruyn and Zubayr Hamza all batted beautifully and looked like they might rack up double centuries.
Therein lies the problem for the Proteas.
Should some of the Pakistan batsmen get set (see Point 1 above), they could easily get to 400-plus in their first innings, which would put the Proteas under massive pressure. As their innings progresses, the fact that the Proteas have just four bowlers will make the runs easier to accumulate as the bowlers start to tire, which should enable Pakistan to build an innings-winning potential lead.
Markram, Elgar, De Bruyn and Hamza might be set for some lengthy bowling spells to offer the pacemen a break … and if you add an injury or a mild twinge to any of the four Proteas pacemen, then it could spell a disastrous day for Elgar’s lads.
However, Pakistan will have to hope that the Proteas don’t find their rhythm on day two because this wicket rewards bowlers when they get things right. When the bowlers do the right thing on wickets like the Wanderers, then it puts the batsmen under pressure and leaves them feeling itchy about playing in the corridor of uncertainty, which is where so much of the magic in bowling happens.
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