x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Proteas batsmen could have their way against Pakistan

Pakistan bowlers are quick to praise the feared South African line-up, writes Paul Radley, but now all they have to do is find ways to stop Hashim Amla and company.

Hashim Amla, right, of South Africa, will definitely be on Pakistan’s radar this week. Pawan Singh / The National
Hashim Amla, right, of South Africa, will definitely be on Pakistan’s radar this week. Pawan Singh / The National

Pakistan’s bowlers should take heart: miracles do happen. The fact there is no such thing as a sure thing in cricket was affirmed in the UK last month when Hashim Amla was playing in the county championship.

The South Africa batsman was in the middle of a typically run-heavy stint as a short-term overseas professional for Surrey.

They were playing away to Somerset at a traditionally batsman-friendly ground, and against an inexperienced bowling attack. And the world’s best batsman promptly bagged a pair of ducks.

Amla failures do happen. But not often, and the prospect of seeing him arriving at the crease in the benign batting conditions of the UAE might fill the nominal home side’s bowlers with dread. It says much about Amla’s status that his was the name Umar Amin, the Pakistan batsman, immediately summoned when asked to nominate a danger man within the world’s No 1 team.

“South Africa are a world-class side with some top players in their team, but definitely Hashim Amla is one of the specialists we need to focus on, then AB de Villiers and Jacques Kallis,” Amin said.

“These are the players we need to be on top of and not let them settle down during the whole series.”

While the likes of Kallis and De Villiers will have been grateful for time at the wicket in Sharjah last week, Amla has not been short on long-format cricket.

His productive six-game spell at Surrey, where he was a substitute for JP Duminy, brought with it four half-centuries and a top score of 151.

It is eight months since the Proteas played a competitive game in whites, and Amla acknowledged their trip to the UAE so far has felt like the players are getting to know each other again.

“The boys are very excited, as we haven’t played Test cricket for quite some time,” Amla said.

“It’s given us a great opportunity to reflect on what has happened and also what we want to achieve. Everyone is hungry, the camaraderie is great and we just want to get better.

“We want to play good cricket and we know it is not going to be easy.

“The heat will be a factor, the Pakistan team are a good team and we don’t know what the wickets will be like.

“But whatever it is the team has that confidence that we’ll be able to adapt as quickly as possible.”