KARACHI (AFP) - South Africa will play their first Test in Pakistan after 14 years which starts today (Tuesday), a match being described as a "monumental moment" for the revival of international cricket in the country.
The match in the port city of Karachi marks a significant vote of confidence for Pakistan where international cricket was suspended following a terrorist attack on the Sri Lanka team s bus in Lahore in 2009.
Foreign teams refused to tour the terror-hit country on security fears and it was only in the last six years that Pakistan hosted limited-over series before Test cricket was revived for the first time in a decade with the visit of Sri Lanka in December 2019.
A tight security cordon has been thrown around the venue and Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Wasim Khan said South Africa s visit was significant. "These are very exciting times for fans and supporters," said Khan.
Babar Azam will make his Test captaincy debut on Tuesday against a tough South Africa team. Azam has recovered from a thumb injury that kept him out of the two-Test series in New Zealand, which Pakistan lost 2-0.
“I missed the series against New Zealand, but it’s a proud moment for me that I am doing my captaincy debut in my own country,” Azam said on Monday.
“South Africa is a good team. You can’t take them lightly, but conditions suit us more because most of us have played here,” he added.
South Africa last toured Pakistan in 2007 because the country was forced to organise its “home” Test series in the United Arab Emirates following a terrorist attack on a bus carrying the Sri Lanka team in Lahore in 2009.
The second Test will be played in Rawalpindi from Feb. 4, followed by the three-match T20I series in Lahore from Feb. 11-14.
Pakistan is out of the race to qualify for the World Test Championship final at Lord’s in June while South Africa has only a mathematical chance to make it with India, New Zealand, Australia and England among the top contenders.
Azam was well aware of Pakistan’s poor Test record against South Africa, winning only four of 26. One of Pakistan’s 15 losses came at the National Stadium — the venue for the first Test — when South Africa toured in 2007. “We should not think about past, we should focus on what’s ahead of us,” Azam said.
“It’s a fact that we don’t have a good record against them, but we have prepared well and we hope to give our best against them this time.”
Pakistan has included six uncapped players in a 17-man squad. Opening batsman Imran Butt and left-arm spinner Nauman Ali could make their Test debuts on Tuesday.
Azam also said Pakistan might go with an additional spinner along with Yasir Shah.
“We have practised here for a week now and the wicket looks a bit slow,” Azam said.
South Africa also has left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj to pose problems for the home team. The tourists have been practising for the last six days to get used to the conditions.
“I’m sure this Pakistan team is going to be tough,” South Africa captain Quinton de Kock said when the team arrived.
“I think our biggest challenge is the conditions that we could face and not knowing the things that we have to deal with.”