The National Stadium in Karachi is gearing up to host one of the historic Test between Pakistan and South Africa from January 26.
Pakistan squad is training at NSK while Proteas are toiling hard for the last six days at Karachi Gymkhana. Both the teams have competed in thrilling matches in the past and in those encounters we have witnessed star performers stepping up onto the scene.
The current squads are relatively young, however, few standout names will be lookout for when they face each other in the upcoming two Tests.
Babar vs Rabada
The obvious nominees between the sides are these two individuals, Pakistan captain Babar Azam and South Africa’s spearhead Kagiso Rabada.
Babar has been on top of his game for the past two years in this format. Scoring a century against mighty Australia in November 2019 at Gabba followed by a 90+ at Adelaide Oval. Three back to back centuries here in Pakistan against Sri Lanka (2019) and Bangladesh (2020). He has registered five fifties and four centuries in his last 17 innings.
On the other hand, Rabada is coming with an impressive record. The right-arm pacer has 197 scalps in 43 Tests at the age of just 25. He bowls at an economy of 3.38 with nine fifers and four 10-wickets per match.
Viewing their one-on-one battle, Rabada has an upper hand as he has dismissed Babar twice in the first Test at Centurion when Pakistan last toured South Africa for three Tests in 2019.
Although Babar countered Rabada in the remaining Tests and pitches here in Pakistan might give an advantage to Babar to dominate Rabada.
Du Plessis vs Shaheen Shah
Visitors’ most experienced batter Faf du Plessis facing the 20-year-old Shaheen Shah Afridi would be a mouth-watering clash.
Digging into past records, Shaheen emerged as the winner, dismissing Du Plessis thrice in four innings. Shaheen dismissed Du Plessis for a duck on two occasions while the remaining one came after Faf posted a century.
Meanwhile, Du Plessis is coming in this series with remarkable performances. Back home, he scored 199 against Sri Lanka and viewing the pitches of Pakistan, Du Plessis might win the battle but it would be intriguing because Shaheen was young in 2019 compared to what Shaheen is now.
Azhar vs Nortje
The last time former captain Azhar Ali toured South Africa, young Duanne Olivier outclassed him and this time around South Africa has Anrich Nortje who can bowl up to 150+ constantly.
Putting extra-miles and bowling bouncers on batting-supported Pakistan pitches would be essential for bowlers and right-arm pacer Nortje has the tendency to do on regular basis.
The 27-year-old Nortje is young at this level in terms of experience but still, his record speaks volume. In eight Tests, he has taken 30 wickets with two fifers.
Azhar’s responsibility has increased a lot after Asad Shafiq’s exclusion from the side. The wait is just four days away as what will be an emphatic series on Pakistan soil after 14 years.