Pakistan will face top-ranked South Africa in the first Test at the Wanderers from Friday destabilised by the loss of rock-solid opener Taufeeq Umar.
The 31-year-old Umar was pulled out of the tour after suffering a muscle injury in his shin. Taufeeq will be replaced by another left handed opener, Imran Farhat. Umar and regular partner Mohammad Hafeez had opened together in 18 consecutive Tests, a record for Pakistan, and the tourists were keen for the sequence to continue against South Africa's formidable fast bowling attack on a pitch likely to offer pace and bounce.
Jamshed expected to debut
With Umar out, Nasir Jamshed is expected to make his Test debut after scoring half-centuries in the warm-up game against a South African Invitation XI on Monday. Pakistan's batting could be the key to the three-match series after South Africa's bowlers swept aside the challenge of New Zealand in two Test matches earlier this month. The middle order failed against the Invitation XI, with only captain Misbah-ul-Haq joining the openers in notching a half-century. But if Pakistan can post respectable totals, they will be confident they have the bowling weaponry to test a strong South African batting line-up.
In Dale Steyn and Veron Philander, South Africa have the two leading bowlers, while fellow fast bowler Morne Morkel is ranked eighth in the ICC rankings. While Saeed Ajmal will be able to bowl long spells of spin, the experienced Umar Gul and the left-arm swing bowler Junaid Khan, together with the unknown factor of the 2.1 metre Mohammad Irfan, will provide a varied pace attack.
Philander and batsman Hashim Amla were both passed fit after missing recent matches but left-arm spinner Robin Peterson remained a doubtful starter after splitting the webbing between fingers on his right hand. South Africa captain Graeme Smith will become the first man to lead in 100 Test matches, an event which has dominated the build-up to the match.AFP