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A century opening stand after 20 innings

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They are a team that has produced outstanding bowlers. They are a team whose erratic performances deter adoring supporters. They are a country's team whose political and social position in the world makes them play home games, away. Amid trials and tribulations, Pakistan still play cricket as they always have; with annoying inconsistency.

In the ongoing first Test against South Africa, once again their bowlers performed admirably. 249, the score for which SA were eventually bundled out wouldn't have come to be if it weren't for Hashim Amla's poetic strokes painting a picture of 118 honey drops sprinkled on gold coloured toast. The wristy 'monk on a mission' drove balls on off stump and flicked those outside it. The perplexity of his shots are matched only by the ease of stroke play. The Pakistan bowlers kept things tight. Irfan, though guilty of huge no-balls bordering on juvenile delinquency was impressive with the new ball. Ajmal was kept at bay by the SA batsmen for a while, but he struck twice.

When it was time for Pakistan to bat, minds all over started thinking back to an outswinger from Dale Steyn and an inswinger from Morne Morkel. It had been 34 innings since any opening partnership had crossed 100 against South Africa. Shane Watson and Phil Hughes, yes, Phil Hughes were the last ones to do so, scoring 174 in Johannesburg on 17th November, 2011. In the last 200 innings, the South African pacers have let the opposition opening pair score 100 only 17 times and half a century only 42 times. That's been their biggest strength; early wickets.

Pakistan's biggest weakness has been the opening pair. In the last 2 years they've gone through 6 pairs. Mohammad Hafeez was a constant until this tour. The below stats are from 14th October 2011 - 15th October 2013.

 

Opening Partnership stats for Pakistan (latest on top)

Opening Pairs Span Inns NO Runs Highest Ave Overs RR 100 50
Khurram Manzoor, Shan Masood 2013-2013 1 0 135 135 135 44 3.06 1 0
Khurram Manzoor, Mohammad Hafeez 2013-2013 4 0 89 30 22.25 30.5 2.88 0 0
Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez 2013-2013 1 0 0 0 0 0.1 0 0 0
Imran Farhat, Mohammad Hafeez 2013-2013 1 0 46 46 46 16.1 2.84 0 0
Mohammad Hafeez, Nasir Jamshed 2013-2013 4 0 26 10 6.5 15.4 1.65 0 0
Mohammad Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar 2011-2012 21 1 858 164 42.9 270.3 3.17 3 4

 

Khurram Manzoor and the 24 year old debutant Shaan Masood put on an opening stand of 135. The last time Pakistan made 100 for the 1st wicket was on 17th Jan, 2012 against England. It was between Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar.

The inexperienced pair of Manzoor and Masood, played out Steyn, Morkel and Philander patiently. When the part-timer in the guise of a regular bowler Robin Peterson came, they attacked like wolves. Albeit, it was another part-timer, JP Duminy who got Masood out, the duo handled the South African bowlers with appropriate respect and ease. It helped that Steyn was out of rhythm, no doubt having picked up a few tips from India's Ishant Sharma. Morkel was a bit too short as was Philander.

However, Philander seemed to be finding the right length with the second new ball. Misbah survived a catch in the slips, which replays showed, had bounced just before Smith's buckets. Pakistan have a slender lead of 14 with 7 wickets in hand. They need to ensure they don't go all 'Pakistan' on their fans and collapse.  

Stats by: Karna Yajnik



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