Terrifying ghosts of Wasim and Waqar still haunt Proteas
No surprise that Pakistan are the best-performing subcontinent team in SA, so let’s see this ODI series
And the best-performing subcontinent team in SA are …
No prizes if you answered Pakistan. But you could earn a beer by guessing the size of their edge over India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. A very small beer.
The difference between how many games Pakistan have won in SA compared to the next best Asian side there, India, is 0.59%. That’s an all-in figure, arrived at by comparing the fact that Pakistan have won 30 of their 77 matches – 38.96% – in Mzansi and India 33 of 86, or 38.37%.
Sri Lanka are at 30.30% and Bangladesh have won just one of their 28 games: against West Indies at the Wanderers during the 2007 World T20.
But it’s a lot more complicated than that, as former SA allrounder and coach Eric Simons explained: “It depends which era you’re talking about – when Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram were playing it was a different situation.
“For instance, we had to be careful about the pitches we prepared because Waqar and Wasim, and someone like Shoaib Akhtar, could do what our bowlers could do.”
Conversely India, Simons said, had become more competitive in SA in recent years partly because their players experienced foreign conditions, particularly in England, more often than when they started touring our country, in 1992.
Still, the idea of Pakistan giving the South Africans a tougher time in their own backyard than any other team from the subcontinent fits more snugly into the narrative.
It helps that they started on the right side of the equation by winning their first match in SA, a one-day international against the home side at Kingsmead in February 1993. That was part of a triangular series that included West Indies, and together the visiting sides shut SA out of the final.
Pakistan returned in December 1994 to win five of their eight matches in an ODI quadrangular also featuring Sri Lanka and New Zealand.
Of their first 15 games in SA, Pakistan won eight – significantly better than India, who won only two of their first 15.
Better yet, the Pakistanis have tended to lose as memorably as they have won thanks to their teams harbouring some of the most mercurial players of the era.
The current crop don’t sparkle with the magic of Wasim, Waqar, Shoaib, Javed Miandad, Mohammad Yousuf or Inzamam-ul-Haq.
But, with the ODI series level at 1-1 going into the third of five games at Centurion on Friday, Pakistan have the opportunity to enlarge the chink of daylight between them and the chasing Asian pack.
They’ve won four of their nine ODIs at Centurion and one of nine at the Wanderers, where Sunday’s game will be played.
At Newlands, which could be the stage for the series decider on Wednesday, Pakistan have celebrated one victory in seven ODI attempts.
Centurion, then, would seem to represent their best chance of keeping things interesting. Not that the rest of the series will be boring. Pakistan never are.