New track laid out but has same characteristics as South Africa top-order batsmen help themselves to good knocks.
Pakistan bowlers toil as South Africa make merry in practice game
South Africa 332-5 (90 ovs)
Toss Pakistan, chose to field
South Africa Kallis 70, Petersen 58 rtd, de Villiers 58, Amla 50 rtd, Duminy 49 n.o; Maqsood 1-17
SHARJAH // After 14 years of being a bowler’s graveyard, Sharjah Cricket Stadium unveiled its newly relaid batting wicket for the first time yesterday.
And the result? More of the same for the world’s poor, put-upon pace bowlers on the evidence of the opening day of South Africa’s tour here.
The two centre pitches at the UAE’s oldest cricket venue were dug up at the start of June with a view to promoting a more even battle between bat and ball.
However, just three South African wickets fell on the first day of using the new strip, as Pakistan’s second-string bowlers endured 90 overs of toil. Alviro Petersen and Hashim Amla retired out.
The lack of productivity for the bowlers probably says more about the strength of the world No 1 Test side’s batting line-up than the quality of the facilities, though.
Petersen, Amla, Jacques Kallis and AB de Villiers all made half-centuries while JP Duminy was left unbeaten just one short of reaching the milestone.
When Pakistan and South Africa last met in the UAE three years ago, wickets were as rarely spotted as raindrops in summer in the desert. The tourists did not play in Sharjah in 2010, but Amla said this surface was alike to those they were faced with in Dubai and Abu Dhabi back then.
“The wicket was similar [to 2010],” Amla said.
“It was a good batting deck but it looked as though it was turning towards the end, and it could turn more [today] and on the last day. But from a seamer’s perspective it was nice to face.”
Aaqib Javed, the former Pakistan seamer who is now coach of the UAE, believes the new surface could help South Africa’s pace bowlers when the first one-day international takes place here at the end of the month.
“It could help South Africa’s fast bowlers but it depends how much rolling they do and how much juice they leave in the wicket,” Aaqib said. “At the moment it looks really good.
“But I don’t think Pakistan should worry about the pitch, they should just believe in themselves and play aggressive cricket.”
Umar Amin, the Pakistan “A” team captain, said his young bowlers faced a tough task against such formidable opposition.
“I wanted to utilise the moisture early in the morning but they played well,” Amin said. “Obviously they are one of the best Test sides in the world and they showed their class.”