Spin-heavy Proteas at full strength for 1st Pakistan Test despite food-related stomach issues

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Mark Boucher (Gallo)
Mark Boucher (Gallo)
  • Proteas coach Mark Boucher says they have a full-strength team to choose from for Tuesday's first Test against Pakistan in Karachi.
  • Boucher is also expecting the National Stadium pitch to take a bit of turn, something that'll influence SA's match-day selection.
  • Boucher seems happier to be playing in January as compared to October, when it's still hot in Pakistan.

Proteas coach Mark Boucher has a full-strength squad to choose his match-day 11 from for Tuesday’s first Test against Pakistan at the National Stadium in Karachi.

Boucher admitted that there were small "food-related stomach issues", but there weren't any major concerns ahead of the first of two landmark Test matches for South Africa in Pakistan.

The tour is South Africa's first of Pakistan since 2007 and while it may be Boucher's first sojourn there as coach, he was on three Pakistan tours as a player.

"At this stage, yes. My knowledge of the sub-continent is that these things happen overnight with stomachs and all those things. There have been some guys who have struggled to get the food down and other issues, but there's nothing serious or injury concerns," Boucher said.

Over the years, Karachi's National Stadium has been a bit of a mixed bag as the port city has served up different conditions.

Pace and spin have been successful at varying stages but runs have also not been in short supply.

In the most recent Test played at the ground between Pakistan and Sri Lanka in December 2019, 24 of the game's 33 wickets fell to pace.

However, five tons were also scored in the game, four by the hosts in a massive 263-run win.

Boucher, who took part in South Africa's 2007 160-run win where 21 of the 37 wickets fell to spin, said they will be playing more than one spinner.

"Definitely more than one spinner. We came here thinking that reverse swing was going to play a role. You then sometimes get to certain conditions and you realise that this isn't going to happen. We believe that we've [got] different options in our squad and we've also got the mindset of not fearing trying out something different than in the past," Boucher said

"We can see from Pakistan's squad selection and the conditions in front of us that they're going with a spin mindset. We've also got guys who can do the job in those conditions, especially in Karachi even though that may change in Karachi. If you want to win a series away from home, you need to make some brave calls and the team will bring that mindset into the game."

With this tour being South Africa's first in January, the cricket will be played in far cooler conditions than the one's Boucher encountered on his three October trips in 1997, 2003 and 2007.

Boucher said the cooler January conditions will impact reverse swing negatively, but not how much the pitch could turn.

"Not only is the weather a lot cooler, the conditions are completely different to what I have experienced. There's a lush green outfield and in South Africa, when it's colder, the pitches are slower and that's something we've seen here," Boucher said.

"The conditions aren't what we thought they would be. We talked about reverse swing but having gone to the ground recently because of security measures, we found that the outfield was very green and moist. I don't know how potent reverse swing will be but looking at the wicket and how Pakistan have picked their team, it's definitely going to turn.  There isn't going to be a lot of assistance for seamers."

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