Pakistan bowlers who can bother SA
Mohammad Amir spent three months in jail in England for his role in the spot-fixing scandal
London — It is not difficult to find boxers who have been jailed‚ but you need to go a long way to discover a cricketer who knows what it is like to see the world through prison bars.
Usually‚ that is. A cricket convict could be just a run-up away in Centurion on December 26.
Mohammad Amir spent three months in the chookie in England for his role in the spot-fixing scandal that erupted after Pakistan’s 2010 tour there.
Now back on the straight and narrow‚ we hope‚ the left-arm fast bowler is in the squad scheduled to travel to SA on Wednesday to play three Tests.
Did jail time affect Amir’s performance?
It would seem not significantly. In his 14 Tests before he was put away he took 51 wickets at an average of 29.09.
Since then‚ and following an interruption of six years‚ he has had 19 Tests and claimed 56 at 33.21.
It would be the second time Amir has bowled to SA’s players since his tangle with the law — he opened the bowling in the Champions Trophy at Edgbaston in June 2017 and went wicketless for 50 — but he has yet to play them in a Test.
He has been recalled for the South African tour after being dropped for the rubber against New Zealand in the Emirates‚ where the Kiwis exploited their opponents’ brittle batting to earn their first series victory over Pakistan in 49 years.
“Amir is a wonderful bowler and we all know how skilful he is‚” Pakistan selection boss Inzamam ul-Haq said.
“But since his return he went through a lot of workload and didn’t get enough time to rest.”
Leg spinner Shadab Khan is another returnee. Just 20‚ he was also part of the side that played SA at Edgbaston two years ago‚ conceding 20 runs from five overs.
Another leg spinner‚ Yasir Shah‚ will arrive flushed with his success in the Emirates‚ where he took three five-wicket hauls and a 10-wicket triumph in his total of 29 at 19.03.
But conditions in SA will demand different skills‚ and for those the Pakistanis will look to Hasan Ali — the leading seamer on either side in the New Zealand series with 13 scalps at 21.07.
Between them‚ Yasir and Hasan took almost half the wickets claimed by all bowlers in the series: 42 of 98.
Then there is 20-year-old‚ 1.98m tall express bowler Shaheen Afridi‚ who has played only four first-class matches — one of them a Test — and who must be looking forward with relish to letting fly in Centurion.
The coming rubber looks likely to be decided largely on what happens between the rock of Pakistan’s bowlers and the hard place of SA’s batters.
That is based on the likelihood that SA’s attack will keep the pressure on Pakistan’s faltering batting line-up‚ lessening the intensity of that contest.
Bowlers win matches‚ of course. And most of those who will be involved in this series have done their bit to prove that truth. Not least Amir‚ who has gone further than most in his journey through life.
Might he be coming to SA to complete his rehabilitation by bowling Pakistan to their first Test series win in the country?
Now that would be a story: the Sharpshooter’s Redemption.