Hafeez vs Smith
In whatever format, Mohammad Hafeez is a difficult bowler to get away and a nightmare for a left hander. To say Smith favours the on side, is stating the obvious. With a closed bat face, habit of chopping on and shuffling across, Hafeez should fancy knocking him over. We have seen him in the past trouble the likes of Strauss, Cook in the longer form of the game with his nagging accuracies & subtle variations who are top class players, too. There shouldn’t be much surprise to see him operating against Smith even early in the innings because of how highly rated he is against lefties & his impressive track record against them and Hafeez will certainly feel he’s in business when Misbah ul Haq tosses the ball to him as Smith marks out his guard. Hafeez will enjoy bowling to him as he does with any left handed batter.
Gul vs Kallis
Kallis looks extremely relaxed and comfortable at the crease. He survives for an age and steadily compiles his runs. There is barely a chink in his armour. If anything at all, he tends to get bowled when pace bowlers surprisingly slide in a yorker early in the innings. Gul bowls a fine yorker & should have the courage of his convictions to test him out with it. You are not going to get Kallis out by out-boring or frustrating him.
Ajmal vs Amla
Ajmal bowling to Amla will be gripping. Amla is a strong backfoot player who doesn’t mind batting on off stump & risking being LBW. He gets across his stumps, works the ball in to the on side from the off spinner, plays it late & backs himself to make contact rather than worrying about the LBW. Ajmal could bowl it straighter & quicker, backing the pace he bowls with to get one through Amla as it crashes into the pads. LBW will always be in play. Amla’s wrist work will be in full flow as he tries to tackle the challenge of Saaed Ajmal. Two of the best players of our modern era going head to head was always going to be a fascinating head to head contest.
Steyn vs Azhar
Azhar is a stodgy, patient and amazingly consistent top order player who is workmanlike in style. He is prepared to bide his time, battle for his runs, reign himself in, hang in there, absorb pressure. He is a good crease occupier, blocker of the ball and a determined scrapper for the visitors and is an expert at playing the marathon innings & consistently being involved in long hauls. However, he has had issues outside the off stump channel with a habit to feel for the ball & has therefore feathered a few too many through to the wicket keeper and slip cordon early in his career. Nevertheless, the enduring grafter has strengthened his technical judgement & concentration levels even more to tackle this problem and now we see him averaging in excess of 45 in the premier form of the game. Azhar scored heavily against the South Africans in the Emirates in 2010 & was instrumental along with Misbah ul Haq in securing those commendable draws with a new looked side, but admittedly they came on unresponsive tracks, but there is an argument that the reputation of the South African attack compensates for that. Azhar will need to perform in this series for the visitors to avoid potential humiliation at the hands of a very fine Southern African side. His battle against Steyn will be a key contest. Azhar needs to ensure he doesn’t defend outside the line of the off stump, try to pick up clues in detecting the inswinger and have the short ball in mind, being clear in his method of how he will try to tackle the challenge. Classical dogged batsmen looking to deny against a fearsome quick with late swing should make intriguing viewing. Will Steyn knock him over or will Azhar manage to see him off and wear him down? For me, this is the key battle of the series.