Pressure rising on Sarfraz's Pakistan captaincy as Abbas gets ready for return

Waseem Ahmed 09:56 02/01/2019
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Sarfraz Ahmed is feeling the heat.

The series will be on the line for Pakistan as they get ready to take on hosts South Africa in the second Test at Newlands, Cape Town from Thursday.

The tourists trail 0-1 in the three-match series after their six-wicket loss in first Test at Centurion and will have it all to do if they are to keep their hopes of a first series win on South African soil alive.

With all to play for at the picturesque Newlands, we look at the talking points ahead of the Test.


The Centurion loss has affected Pakistan in more ways than one with reports of head coach Mickey Arthur taking his senior batsmen to task following yet another batting collapse. The team management did come out to refute those reports but batting coach Grant Flower admitted that the atmosphere in the team camp was far from ideal.

One of the senior batsmen to reportedly come under Arthur’s crosshairs is skipper Sarfraz Ahmed whose Test captaincy has come under increasing pressure of late. A possible breakdown in his relationship with Arthur at this stage would not be the most ideal of preparations for the tourists going into the second Test.

His own personal form is under the scanner too after he bagged a pair in the Centurion defeat and yet another series loss following the defeat to New Zealand in the UAE could see the walls finally close in on the wicketkeeper-batsman’s captaincy in the red-ball format.

Not a happy Pakistan team camp at the moment.

Not a happy Pakistan team camp at the moment.


South Africa are in the driving seat after their convincing triumph in the first Test but the hosts have a fine balancing act to do in terms of team selection for the Newlands clash. Star seamer Vernon Philander has been declared fit to play after missing out at Centurion but his return has given skipper Faf du Plessis some serious selection headaches.

Du Plessis confirmed that Philander will slot straight back into the playing XI in what is the seamer’s home ground. The question now is which player Philander will replace.

The hosts deployed a three-man pace attack in Centurion in the form of Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn and Duanne Olivier. Olivier put in a man-of-the-match display with a 11-wicket haul and it would be unfair to drop the seamer after that performance.

Dropping Rabada or Steyn would be near unthinkable for the Proteas and Du Plessis has to now decide whether to sacrifice a specialist batsman or a bowler to make way for Philander’s return.

Who makes way for Philander's return?

Who makes way for Philander’s return?


While Du Plessis will have to put on his thinking cap in the wake of Philander’s return, his Pakistan counterpart Sarfraz will have no such troubles as Mohammad Abbas returns from injury.

The Pakistan seamer did not feature in Centurion due to a shoulder injury but has now fully recovered in time for the Newlands Test. Abbas will be welcomed back with open arms after what has been a stellar 2018 for him in which he has picked up 38 wickets in just seven Tests at an average of under 14.

However, it is in the batting department that Pakistan’s troubles lie with senior batsmen such as Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq failing spectacularly at Centurion. While veteran Azhar is expected to retain his place, Shafiq’s spot could be in question with the likes of Haris Sohail and Mohammad Rizwan lying in wait. Shafiq registered scores of seven and six in the first Test but it was the loose manner of his dismissals more than his low contribution that will frustrate the Pakistan team management the most.

With the pressure well and truly on the tourists, it will be interesting to see if Shafiq features in the playing XI at Newlands.

Abbas' return will boost Pakistan in the bowling department.

Abbas’ return will boost Pakistan in the bowling department.

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