Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed on Thursday urged his fellow team-mates to play “without fear” during their tour of South Africa — a country where the team has won only two Tests during its past five tours.
The Pakistani side is en route to South Africa to play three Tests, five One-Day Internationals (ODIs) and three Twenty20 Internationals, with the first Test starting in Centurion on December 26.
Pakistan head into the series after losing 2-1 to New Zealand in the United Arab Emirates last week. In the wake of the tough loss, Sarfraz said he still had high hopes of earning a good result against the Proteas. “Conditions in South Africa are tough with bouncy and seaming pitches so anyone who plays without fear and with a big heart will succeed,” Sarfraz told AFP.
Pakistan’s two wins out of 12 Tests in South Africa came in 1998 and 2007, having lost nine with just one draw. On its last tour in 2013, Pakistan was routed 3-0 and bowled out for its lowest Test score of 49 in the first Test in Johannesburg, with both senior batsmen Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq in the line-up.
Now without the two stalwarts, Pakistan will look to Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq to help guide the squad. “We need big innings from both Azhar and Shafiq and they are capable of doing that, so if we put good totals on board we have a good bowling attack to win the match,” said Sarfraz, who also singled out recalled paceman Mohammad Amir as key to any success.
“Amir is back after a good performance at the domestic level so we hope he gets us key wickets in Tests,” said Sarfraz of Amir, who was dropped from the series against Australia and New Zealand due to poor form.
Pakistan opens the tour with a three-day game against Cricket South Africa Invitation XI at Benoni from December 19. The second Test is in Cape Town from January 3-7 and the third in Johannesburg from January 11-15.