Pakistan’s totals of 181 and 190 did not prove to be enough as the Proteas made short work of the eventual target of 149 to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
There is plenty to ponder for the visitors after the Centurion loss.
Here, we look at three things learned for Pakistan from their Centurion defeat.
AMIR BACK TO HIS BEST
If there is any solace Pakistan fans and the team management can take from the Centurion defeat, it is the return of form of pacer Mohammad Amir.
Not picked in the Test squads for the home series against Australia and New Zealand following a disappointing run in 2018, the spotlight was well and truly on Amir on his return to the international arena.
The left-armed pacer was the pick of Pakistan’s bowlers in the first innings along with young Shaheen Afridi with a four-wicket haul. The swing was back in Amir’s armoury with the pacer bowling at a good rhythm throughout the Test.
He looked effective in the second innings as well but was unlucky to not bag any further wickets. With star seamer Mohammad Abbas still nursing a shoulder injury, Amir’s return to form could not have come at a better time for Pakistan.
BATTING COLLAPSES CONTINUE UNABATED
The onus was on Pakistan’s batsmen to stand up to the task heading into the series with both teams possessing an excellent bowling attack. In recent years, Pakistan have developed a notorious habit of suffering dramatic batting collapses from positions of strengths and the same was evident in their 1-2 series loss to New Zealand in the UAE recently.
With both Sarfraz Ahmed and Mickey Arthur calling on the batsmen to step up in South Africa, the pressure was on the senior batsmen to make amends for the New Zealand loss.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be with more questions being thrown up rather than answers as the tourists collapsed in extraordinary fashion in both innings, especially the second.
They were in a relative position of strength on day two with Imam-ul-Haq’s half-century taking them to 101-1 in the second innings. However, once the Pakistan opener fell to a poor shot, the entire batting unit came down like a house of cards. From 101-1, Pakistan were bowled out for 190 within the span of a single session.
The senior batsmen in particular were the biggest culprits with Azhar Ali, Asad Shafiq and Sarfraz all throwing away their wickets cheaply.
SARFRAZ CAPTAINCY UNDER FIRE
Sarfraz’s Test captaincy was as it is under fire heading into the series and the skipper’s performance in the Test will have done him no favours in that regard.
The wicketkeeper-batsman was dismissed for a duck in both the innings as his wretched form with the bat continued. More than his non-existent contributions, it will be the manner of Sarfraz’s dismissals which will frustrate the team management and coach Mickey Arthur the most.
Sarfraz poked tentatively to a Duanne Olivier short-ball in the first innings before chopping it onto his stumps before perishing to a loose drive away from his body in the second.
Add it to the reports of Arthur losing his cool with Sarfraz in the team meeting on the second day, it does not make for a happy situation for the Pakistan skipper.
Even though the Pakistan team management have come out to deny those reports on Friday, the damage might already have been done. If things don’t improve for Sarfraz in the coming two Tests, his captaincy could very well be on the chopping blocks.
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