A.B. de Villiers wary of Pakistan seamers
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Pakistan seamers damaged South Africa’s top order batting in the first test, according to batsman A.B. de Villiers, and the Proteas have to adapt quickly for the second and final test starting Wednesday.
“They (seamers) got some really big wickets in the first and second innings and we have to work on it,” de Villiers said Monday after his team’s net session at the ICC Academy in Dubai.
Lanky pacer Mohammad Irfan and Junaid Khan had reduced South Africa to 43-3 and then removed Alviro Petersen and Jacques Kallis cheaply in the second innings as Pakistan went 1-0 up in the series with a seven-wicket victory last week.
South Africa has not lost an away test series since 2006 when it was beaten by Sri Lanka 2-0, but the task to protect their seven-year unbeaten run will be tougher with another slow wicket expected to welcome them.
“It’s a must-win game for us and we’re going in there with that attitude to win that game,” de Villiers said. “We’re still the No. 1 team in the world and we are going to play like it.”
While Pakistan seamers got rid of the top order, South Africa had only watched some video footage of 34-year-old leftarm spinner Zulfiqar Babar before the test match as the left-armer impressed with five wickets on his debut.
“We haven’t faced him (Babar) before, maybe that factor played into the hands and they used it quite well,” de Villiers said.
While Pakistan fast bowlers pitched up to the Proteas batsmen, South Africa’s plot of shaking the opponents with short deliveries didn’t work. They will be looking to bowl to fuller lengths like they showed briefly when Pakistan stuttered to 7-3 in their small run-chase of 40 at Abu Dhabi.
“It’s important for us to go with fresh mindsets, win this test match and not lose the series,” de Villiers said. “We haven’t lost a series in a very long time ... to go in there and try to adapt to the conditions as quickly as possible and get momentum on our side.”
But to get that momentum back, South Africa might not have the luxury of star batsman Hashim Amla, who has returned home to be with his expecting wife. Amla gave South Africa some respectability in the first innings with his superb 118, but he might not be in time for the second test.
In Amla’s place, lefthanded Dean Elgar, who has scored 192 runs in six test matches, is expected to be drafted in to fill the big shoes of world’s top-ranked test batsman.
“It’s definitely a big test for him (Elgar),” de Villiers said. “He hasn’t played a test match for a while so ... that’s probably the area where he will feel a little bit doubt.”
De Villiers said ideally it would have suited South Africa to play a test series before coming to the United Arab Emirates as its last series was in February when it routed Pakistan 3-0 at home. The Proteas also had only one three-day warm-up game against Pakistan “A″ where against the second string bowlers Jacques Kallis, de Villiers, Petersen and Amla all scored half centuries.
“We would have loved a series before this or a few more warm-up games,” de Villiers said. “It just wasn’t possible and that’s where the best teams in the world normally believe that they are ready no matter what.
“But we couldn’t get right this time around and it’s disappointing. We wanted to play more cricket beforehand but it was just not possible, going into the second test match hopefully we will play better.”
De Villiers rated South Africa’s performance very low on scale of 10 keeping in mind that the Proteas had not lost its previous 15 test matches before losing in Abu Dhabi.
“We were probably about two out of 10 comparing to the standards we have hit ourselves over the last few years,” he said. “We didn’t play big moments well where the test match could be turned around. I think they beat us in all the areas, there aren’t lot of positives so it’s pretty much everything.”
Pakistan also has not lost a test series in the UAE since 2009 after its home matches were moved due to security fears of foreign teams after attack on Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore.
And de Villiers knows well that despite Pakistan’s unpredictability which saw them losing a test match against Zimbabwe last month, the team has enough potential to surprise big teams.
“If you do not play to your potential there are teams in the world that’s going to beat you, Pakistan is one of those teams,” de Villiers said. “They are quality side, even though they are unpredictable, they have world class players in the side and we’re going to respect that.”