x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Zip is the word out of Dubai Test between Pakistan and South Africa

Much as Misbah opted to keep quiet on controversy and South Africa wanted to drum up their accomplishments, the ball-tampering row will not go down so easily, writes Paul Radley.

Pakistan defied the South African bowlers for a while on Day 4, but once Dean Elgar got Misbah-Ul-Haq out, they folded up. Marwan Naamani / AFP
Pakistan defied the South African bowlers for a while on Day 4, but once Dean Elgar got Misbah-Ul-Haq out, they folded up. Marwan Naamani / AFP

Zips on cricket trousers are set to be outlawed by the game’s governing body by 2015, according to the manager of the South African national team.

That might seem like a bizarre intro to a story wrapping up a Test in which the world’s best side, shorn of the sport’s premier batsman, bared their irresistible might in foreign climes.

One in which the finest opener-captain of the age scored his fifth double century in Test matches, in an innings he says will stay fresh in his mind for the rest of his days.

One where a 34-year-old nomad was given arguably his final shot at redemption at the top level of his profession and grabbed it in a flurry of kisses to both the badge on his chest and — via airmail — his wife in the stands.

And one in which a player, short of stature yet big of heart, took his chance to show Pakistan do have leaders-in-waiting when the current master departs, with an innings of old-school majesty.

Such is the way of Test cricket. Just when you think it is all about the triumph of human endeavour, you are made to look a fool.

Of course it is not, you dolt.

Really, it is all about zips on trousers, or long-sleeved shirts buttoned down at the wrist, or Vaseline on the edges of bats.

“Regarding the issue around zips, I’m not sure many of you know, it is being outlawed by the ICC,” Mohammed Moosajee, the team manager of the Proteas, said in a prepared statement designed to put the Faf du Plessis ball-tampering charge to bed.

“Each team is being given until 2015 to make sure all their kit, especially their trousers, don’t have zips.

“From a Cricket South Africa perspective, our apparel manufacturer Adidas have already begun the process and we will make sure we meet this timeline.”

So started the valedictory press conference after South Africa had completed a landslide, innings and 92 runs victory on a ground on which Pakistan had never previously lost a Test.

Du Plessis had earlier in the day been fined half his match fee by the match referee David Boon for rubbing the ball against the zip on his trouser pocket on day three.

The charge had not been contested for fear of greater punishment, but the South Africans were adamant having the words “ball-tampering” attributed to the incident was harsh.

Many Pakistan fans thought quite the opposite. The chairman of the Pakistan board, Najam Sethi, said they would write to the ICC to query the disparity between Du Plessis’ punishment and that of Shahid Afridi.

The former Pakistan captain was banned for two matches for biting the ball in a match in 2010.

For his part, Misbah-ul-Haq, the current Pakistan captain, said it was none of his or his side’s business.

When asked if he thought the issue had sullied his side’s feats here, Graeme Smith answered with a brusque no.

The brevity of the captain’s one-word response was emphatic. This is a side-issue, now ask me about the important business, it said.

Because he had so much to celebrate, both personally and on behalf of his team.

His innings of 237, along with Imran Tahir’s eight wickets in the match, was decisive, and emotional.

Smith said he had worried whether his career might be over when the surgeon who operated on his recent ankle injury said he only had one option available to him.

“I worked extremely hard to reach the point where I am,” Smith said.

“To be repaid for my own hard work and that of my teammates in something I will never forget.”

The win maintained South Africa’s proud record of not having lost an away Test series since 2006.

“We have a lot we still need to do before we can be compared to the great teams which dominated for many, many years,” Smith said.

“For us to have that record away from home is an extremely proud one.

“I don’t think many teams in the current status of world cricket can travel as well as we do and be able to perform in the different environments that you face on the road.

“I certainly don’t think the team gets enough credit for that. It is an immense record and one we are very proud of.”


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Audio: Graeme Smith on his double hundred

Audio: Captain Misbah pinpoints the areas where Pakistan lost