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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

I quite enjoy not having to to office anymore. I get my work done, and I have some free time to watch cricket (the odd day of a Ranji match, an ODI or Twenty20 live on TV, as well as highlights of random games).

The ODIs in the UAE were exciting, and a great advert for the 50-over game, but I doubt the Tests will be. A two-Test series in the UAE of all places just seems a bit odd. We don't know what the tracks will be like, but we can expect high scores. South Africa v Pakistan is hardly one of the most engrossing rivalries in Test cricket, primarily because there have only been 16 Test matches between the two, with South Africa the dominant side. In fact, of all current Test-playing countries, Pakistan have the worst record against South Africa. In 16 Tests, they've won just thrice and lost eight times for a success rate of 37%.

I jogged my memory trying to recollect some memorable moments in Tests between these two teams, and most of what I could remember were South African highlights. Here are the few that I could recall, and with the help of some scorecards and stats, unfurled a few nuggets that Pakistan fans won't remember too fondly.

1. Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs' monstrous partnership of 368 in 69.2 overs at Newlands in 2003. The two first broke all the possible partnership records for South Africa against Pakistan before passing the 260-run South African first wicket partnership, between Bruce Mitchell and Ivan Siedle against England at the same ground during the 1930/31 season. Next to fall was the 341-run highest South African partnership for any wicket, that set by Eddie Barlow and Graeme Pollock against Australia in Adelaide during the 1963/64 season.

2. Gibbs' 228 from 240 balls in that Newlands massacre is South Africa's highest individual score against Pakistan. He's not playing, and those who remain the Pakistan squad will probably think that a good thing.

3. Fanie de Villiers had a thing for Pakistan batting line-ups. It isn't the best individual bowling analysis in an innings (that record belongs to Paul Adams and his 7 for 28 at Lahore in a losing cause in 2003), but it is perhaps the most memorable. "Superficially, Pakistan looked even more powerful going into the final Test," wrote Wisden in its verdict of the third Test of the 1999 season. Instead, Pakistan imploded and South Africa leveled the series with some ease. Starring was de Villiers, in what he said was his final Test, with his best figures, 6 for 23, to make it 8 for 48 in the match.

4. Not only does he have the best individual bowling analysis for South Africa against Pakistan, de Villiers also has the most for a Test. In a one-off Test in 1995, de Villiers inspired South Africa's biggest ever home victory in terms of runs, while Pakistan surrendered their record of at least one Test victory in their inaugural series against each of their opponents. His 6 for 81 skittled Pakistan for exactly half South Africa's total, and after Cronje chose not to enforce the follow-on, de Villiers was at it again with 4 for 27 to complete a crushing 324-run success.

5. Its not the javelin thrower who leads the way in South Africa v Pakistan wicket-taking prowess, however - its Shaun Pollock (45 at 21.35 apiece), then Ntini (41 at 24.07) and Donald (27 at 22.37). Polly's finest hour against Pakistan came in the third Test at Faisalabad in 1997, on a pitch which Wisden said "looked positively emerald by Pakistan's standards". By bundling Pakistan out for 92 on the fourth day, South Africa took the series stunningly. At stumps on the third evening, Pakistan were 4 for 0 needing 142 in two days. The next morning it was all Pollock, and a thrilling win was sealed quite against the run of play. Wisden described it thus: "Then Pollock, bowling with impeccable discipline to a specific plan for each batsman, took four in seven balls. The batsman played like rabbits but Pollock became the headlights which paralysed them. Lunch was taken at 79 for six - "I don't know how they felt," said Pollock, "but we couldn't eat a thing. We all just sat, staring at the clock, willing the minutes to go by. . ." "

6. One of the most frustrating innings against Pakistan has to be Pat Symcox's only Test century, at The Wanderers in 1998. Symcox became the first No 10 batsman to score a Test century for 96 years, and with Mark Boucher he put on ninth-wicket partnership to 195, a Test record, on the second day of the first Test. Symcox, 37, and Boucher, 21, - the oldest and youngest members of the side - beat the 190 set by Asif Iqbal and Intikhab Alam for Pakistan against England at the Oval in 1967. As if facing Symcox bowl wasn't boring enough, Pakistan had to watch him bat his way to a century. Those present during that match probably don't remember it too fondly.

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