|Player:||Imran Khan, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, JH Kallis, AG Prince, Mohammad Asif, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, RT Ponting, Danish Kaneria, SK Warne, Zaheer Abbas, RA Woolmer|
DateLine: 1st February 2007
Pakistan made too many mistakes and spoiled a golden opportunity to win their first-ever Test series in South Africa, former cricket greats said on Monday.
South Africa earned a five-wicket win in the third Test at Cape Town on Sunday to take a hard-fought three-match series 2-1.
Former captain and all-rounder Imran Khan said the selectors' decision to drop fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar from the tour was wrong. Akhtar was flown to South Africa after injury to the main strike bowler, Umar Gul, and destroyed the South African top order on the opening day of the second Test match, which Pakistan won. He pulled a hamstring after bowling just 11 overs, during which he took four wickets. He was later sent back home for treatment and rehabilitation.
"Pakistan committed the blunder of not taking Akhtar from the start of the tour and his injury at Port Elizabeth could have been because he wasn't match fit," said Khan of Akhtar. "Some good things have also come out and now the team management realise Tests can only be won through match winners," Khan said.
Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince hit half-centuries during their 117-run fifth wicket stand as the hosts successfully chased a challenging 161-run target on a tricky Newlands pitch. South Africa won the first Test at Centurion by seven wickets. Pakistan squared the series with a five-wicket win in the second Test at Port Elizabeth.
Khan praised spearhead Mohammad Asif for putting up a good show.
"Asif is well on his way to become one of the greats. If he gains a little bit of pace through weight training he can be more lethal," said Khan of the 24-year-old paceman, who claimed 19 wickets in the series.
Khan, now a member of Pakistan's parliament, said not selecting batsman Yasir Hameed in the first Test was also a blunder. "Hameed's 35 in the second innings of the third Test showed his class and to me his progress was halted by not selecting him earlier."
Khan also criticised the decision to bat captain Inzamam-ul-Haq at six and Mohammad Yousuf at five. "Yousuf is the best batsman alongside Australian Ricky Ponting at the moment but how many times has Ponting batted below three? And Ponting always leads from the front," Khan said of the Australian captain.
Khan said leg-spinner Danish Kaneria had talent but lacked the temperament of the now-retired Australian leg-spinner Shane Warne.
"Temperament was the biggest of Warne's assets and he used to perform when his team needed the most and when under pressure," said Khan of the legendary Warne, who retired earlier this month from Test cricket with a word record 708 wickets.
Another former captain, Zaheer Abbas, blamed players' fitness and poor fielding for the series loss.
"We fought well in the series but our fitness and fielding left a lot to be desired," said Abbas, who was nicknamed Asia's Don Bradman because of his ability to score big runs.
Abbas disagreed with Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer that the hectic schedule was the reason for Pakistan's frequent injury problems.
"You need to have good back-ups (for injured players). South Africa was struggling but they were fitter and were a good fielding side," said Abbas. He said Pakistan's fielding would be further exposed in the one-day series starting with the first match at Centurion on February 4.