When South Africa visited Pakistan back in 2007, Makhaya Ntini, Andre Nel and a young Dale Steyn were the most dangerous bowlers the Proteas brought with them. The pace trio was known across the globe for their ravaging speeds and skilful bowling.
Meanwhile for Pakistan, they had the middle-order trio of Inzamamul Haq, Muhammad Yousuf and Younis Khan to counter the South African bowling.
South Africa won the two-Test series 1-0 that year, and this time around the visitors would be one again be hoping to replicate that form. However, Pakistan won be feeling any pressure of something that happened nearly 14 years ago.
If we look at the current Pakistani batting line-up and the South African bowling arsenal, two names clearly standout among the rest – right-handed batsman Babar Azam for the hosts and right-arm pacer Kagiso Rabada with the visitors.
Let us look at their recent forms and try to adjudge who will come out on top when the two Tests are played in Karachi and Rawalpindi, respectively.
With 29 Tests under his belt, Pakistan’ all-format captain Babar boasts an average of nearly 46 with 2,045 runs to his name. He has scored five centuries and 15 half centuries with a strike rate of nearly a run after every two balls.
In his last 10 matches, Babar has scored five fifties and four centuries across 17 innings.
Also, his record against South Africa in South Africa is not that bad. He posted scores of 71, 6, 2, 72, 49 and 21 in the three Tests when Pakistan visited the Proteas in 2019.
All this aside, Pakistan’s recent loss to New Zealand, where Babar was nursing a thumb injury and missed the whole series, must give him enough motivation to come back and pile up runs against South Africa.
After 43 Tests and at the age of just 25, Rabada already has nearly 200 wickets (197 to be exact) to his name in the longest format. He has an economy of 3.38 which may put a lot of current Test pacers to shame, while he also has nine fifers and four 10-fers in his record.
South Africa recently faced England at the turn of the year and Rabada bagged 14 wickets in the three-match Test series. He had a bad spell against India in India, where the pitches favour spinners, and was able to dismiss only seven batsmen in the three Tests. However, he gave away less runs than usual on the tour to put on display his prowess of containment rather than wicket-taking.
His exploits against Sri Lanka before the India series saw him bag eight wickets in two Tests and before that he rattled Pakistan in the three-match series with 17 wickets in three matches.
Babar and Rabada know each other really well. The last and the very first time they faced each other Rabada came out on top against the Pakistan batting star.
In the first Test in Centurion, Babar was dismissed in both innings by Rabada. An outside edge saw Babar’s innings come to an end in the first innings, while the right-handed was bowled by Rabada in the second.
In the second Test, Duanne Olivier snapped the wicket of Babar before Rabada could, but the South African pacer dismissed Babar in the second innings on the score of 72 as the batsman edge one to Hashim Amla.
The third Test saw Babar being accounted by Olivier in both innings, but if it counts, Rabada took the catch of Babar in the first innings.
All in all, if one looks at the stats Rabada clearly dictated terms when Babar faced him while visiting South Africa. However, pitches in Pakistan may not offer the same assistance that Rabada got back in South Africa, and Babar has matured with every passing day too. So, it would not be wrong to say that Babar has a higher chance of coming out on top in the upcoming Test series, but one has to watch the mouth-watering clash to really know what will happen.
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