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SA seek to become ICC Test champions

Durban: South Africa will seek to snatch the International Cricket Council (ICC) Test championship when they take on a depleted Pakistan in the first Test starting at Kingsmead on Thursday.

If South Africa win the two-match series, they will overtake Australia on the ICC log, despite having been heavily beaten in home-and-away series by the Australians last season.

“It’s testament to how well we’ve played around the world,” said South African captain Shaun Pollock. “We beat India in India and Australia couldn’t. And we beat the West Indies in the West Indies.”

South Africa’s average points tally is boosted by series wins against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, while Australia have not yet played a series against the two nations.

The only team not to have been defeated by South Africa in a recent series at home, apart from Australia, are Pakistan, who shared a three-match series five seasons ago. It is because of that result that South Africa can improve their points tally, while Australia cannot gain extra points from their current series against England.

Pakistan will start the series as underdogs after being trounced 1-4 in a one-day series. Skipper and fast bowler Waqar Younis will carry a huge burden for the tourists following the decision of fellow-veteran Wasim Akram not to play in the Tests and the withdrawal of Shoaib Akhtar because of a knee injury.

The promising Mohammad Sami did not play as three-day tie against South Africa A because of a groin injury but is expected to be fit for the Test. Fellow fast bowler Mohammad Zahid is set to make a comeback to Test cricket after a four-year absence.

Also in line for a recall is Fazl-e-Akbar, who made his debut against South Africa at Kingsmead five years ago but has only been selected for three Tests since then.

Pakistan have reason to be concerned about the form of their batsmen on a pitch which usually helps the fast bowlers. Their openers, Salim Elahi and Taufeeq Umar, are both inexperienced, while their middle order stars, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Yousuf Youhana and Younis Khan, performed below their best during the one-day series.

South Africa go into the match on a streak of five successive wins, which started at Kingsmead last season when they defeated Australia in the final Test to end a string of five losses against the current champions. South Africa have won all four of their matches this season, two each against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Mornantau Hayward was recalled after missing the one-day series. Because he has not played much recently, his fitness will be assessed before he takes his place. Steve Elworthy is on standby.

Also recalled is left-arm spinner Nicky Boje, dropped from the last two matches of the ODI series. (AFP)

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