How are South Africa managing to beat Pakistan? They won the first Test and now they’re on the verge of taking a 150-run first innings lead in a despicably constricted two match back-to-back series.
Well, rather ingeniously and for just about the first time since their readmittance to Test cricket in 1991, South Africa have been picking their bowling attack based on each member’s bowling ability.
No Nicky Boje, no Andrew Hall. You could probably lump Shaun Pollock in there as well nowadays. South Africa haven’t batted down to nine in this series, but they have featured four front-line bowlers. There’s Makhaya Ntini, of course, leading more than just the attack; there’s the young, rapid Dale Steyn; the overly-committed or should-be-committed Andre Nel; and weirdest of all, Paul Harris – a spinner.
This is paying off as Pakistan are yet to pass 300 in three innings. There’s been a touch of Twenty20 about the Pakistani batting, admittedly, which is hardly surprising when on one Monday they’re playing in the narcotic atmosphere of a Twenty20 World Cup final against arch-rivals India and the following Monday they’re playing a Test match against South Africa in a soporific National Stadium in Karachi.
Regardless, South Africa are dominant and it’s largely thanks to a full bowling attack. How long will this selection policy last though? We’ve a theory that most international sides have a default make-up to which they’re only too happy to revert.
India, for example, will require, say, 10 failures with four bowlers in their side before they’ll pick a fifth, but they’ll then require only two five-bowler failures before they revert to four. Similarly, South Africa just love having batsmen down to nine, even at the expense of their bowling.