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Revamped Pakistan look to usher in era of home dominance against spunky South Africa
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Revamped Pakistan look to usher in era of home dominance against spunky South Africa

Pakistan's fresh-faced squad under the leadership of young captain Babar Azam will be welcoming a historic clash against South Africa in the first Test of the two-match series on Tuesday.

The Karachi Test battle will mark the first time in more than a decade that a top-ranked nation will play in Pakistan, albeit the Quinton de Kock-led side may not live up to the glory days of its predecessors.

Barring the sentimental backdrop in the lead up to the cricket action, one can expect an engrossing contest from two evenly forlorn teams suffering from a spate of problems.

South Africa were emphatically victorious in their previous Test assignment, but administrative scandals and an alarming uncertainty have blighted the road to their rare success.

On the other hand, Pakistan have been overcome with a poor run away from home, threatening the tenure of the existing team management led by head coach Misbah-ul-Haq.

Despite the grim setting and a tall stack of records going against Pakistan, they seem well-equipped to trouble the tourists in the trial by spin at National Stadium.

Six uncapped players line up Pakistan's 17-man squad for the series opener, seeing them spoilt for slow bowling options. One of the veteran domestic pros Nauman Ali and Sajid Khan is a certainty for the second spinner's slot alongside Yasir Shah.

This leaves the possibility of another debutant filling in the top-order after Pakistan decided to omit Shan Masood and Haris Sohail from their Test set-up following flop displays in New Zealand.

Imran Butt is the most likely candidate to partner with Abid Ali in the opening role as Babar returns to the side to bolster the fragile batting order.

As is the general rhetoric spouted in colloquial terms, Pakistan would be aiming for home dominance after winning against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in their last two Test assignments in Karachi and Rawalpindi.

In the South Africa camp, head coach Mark Boucher has signalled a last-minute change in tactics with a renewed focus on incorporating spin into their team.

This would mean the Proteas' pace-heavy squad will have to shed its load as Keshav Maharaj will get the services of Tabraiz Shamsi or George Linde or even both for the first Test to assist him.

Dean Elgar's blazing run against Sri Lanka is a major positive sign for the visitors since the South African Test specialist is deemed as their finest player of spin in the current squad.

Squads

Pakistan: Abid Ali, Imran Butt, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam (capt), Fawad Alam, Saud Shakeel, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Nauman Ali, Sajid Khan, Yasir Shah, Haris Rauf, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Tabish Khan

South Africa: Quinton de Kock (capt & wk), Temba Bavuma, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Kagiso Rabada, Dwaine Pretorius, Keshav Maharaj, Lungi Ngidi, Rassie van der Dussen, Anrich Nortje, Wiaan Mulder, Lutho Sipamla, Beuran Hendricks, Kyle Verreynne, Sarel Erwee, Keegan Petersen, Tabraiz Shamsi, George Linde, Daryn Dupavillon, Marco Jansen