Match Preview – Pakistan vs South Africa, South Africa in Pakistan 2020/21, 1st Test

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This Test series, finally, is the sort that made Pakistan itch to get international cricket back home from the UAE. For perhaps the first time, the narrative will not be defined by the fact that it’s taking place in the country, where the venue matters more than the cricket itself. In South Africa, Pakistan have attracted one of the premier sides in Test cricket, a recent troubled run notwithstanding. And with the two sides far from perfect, both on the rebuild with young captains leading them out, this promises to be a series not quite shaped by cricketing excellence as engrossing human drama.

Pakistan, not for the first time, are both a basket case and a team capable of great feats. They are at the start of a cycle, with the Babar Azam era promising to commence fully after a false start in New Zealand. There’s a new chief selector in Mohammad Wasim, who has brought in a slew of fresh faces, with at least a couple expected to make their debuts on Tuesday. At the same time, head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis need to be careful this series isn’t the last chapter in their stint with the side, after a less-than flattering PCB cricket committee performance review that has effectively put them on notice.

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