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Sunday, September 30, 2007

Pakistan vs South Africa: Changes in the air

The 1st Test between Pakistan and South Africa starts tomorrow at the National Stadium, Karachi. While at the helm of the Pakistan team are a new captain, vice-captain and coach, it is the one planned change in the South Africa side that have grabbed the headline. Ex-captain and fast bowler Shaun Pollock may yet play tomorrow, but definitely not as first choice. The official word from the South Africa camp is that Pollock is being saved for greener wickets, where the ageing hero's fading pace will still be a force to reckon with. If he still makes it to the XI tomorrow that will be via an injury to Morni Morkel, who will undergo a fitness test on the morning of the 1st Test.

Shoaib Malik will lead Pakistan for the first time in a Test match, along with a new vice-captain in Salman Butt. Left arm spinner Abdur Rehman is slated to make his debut, and Shahid Afridi who has opted out of the team as he is fasting in the holy month of Ramadan will be sorely missed on the dry Karachi wicket. While Afridi himself may not care much for his own batting now, Malik would know that even a quick fire 40 or 50 from Afridi can often make a crucial difference to the proceedings. ( Afridi averages 37.40 with the bat and has picked up 47 wickets in the 26 tests he has played)

Likely Pakistan Team:
1 Shoaib Malik (captain) Salman Butt (vice-captain) 2 Mohammad Hafeez 3 Younis Khan 4 Mohammad Yousuf 5 Mohammad Hafeez 6 Misbah-ul-Haq 7 Kamran Akmal (wk) 8 Abdur Rehman 9 Umar Gul 10 Danish Kaneria 11 Mohammad Asif

Likely South Africa Team:
1 Graeme Smith (captain 2 Herschelle Gibbs 3 Jacques Kallis 4 Hashim Amla 5 Ashwell Prince 6 AB de Villiers 7 Mark Boucher (wk) 8 Andre Nel 9 Makhaya Ntini 10 Shaun Pollock 11 Paul Harris
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