By a strange coincidence Test cricket returns to the small but cosy ground at Sheikhupura, 20 miles out in the Lahore suburbs, on identical dates to its inaugural match 12 months ago, when Pakistan played Zimbabwe. Sadly, the pitch looks as if it will be as lifeless and boring as that in Rawalpindi, where the First Test ended last week in a draw.
It will not therefore be quite the blow it might have been to both Pakistan and South Africa that the leading fast bowler on either side, Allan Donald and Waqar Younis, are unlikely to play.
Donald has already been ruled out with a sore quadrucep muscle in his left thigh while Waqar is nursing a painful left heel. To set against this Pakistan have chosen Wasim Akram - Saeed Anwar will still captain the side - who has been out with his shoulder for six months, but this is seen more as a rehabilitation match for him and it is unlikely that he will bowl flat-out.
The most significant selection has been Pakistan's inclusion of 23-year- old leg spinner, Ali Rizvi, and one gathers it is their intention to play all three spinners.
Rizvi took 11 wickets against South Africa for the Pakistan Board XI in their first match of the tour in Karachi. Rizvi, who by all accounts gives the ball quite a flip, is likely to come in for Waqar while Wasim will take the place of either Mohammad Wasim or Mohammad Ramzan.
For South Africa, Donald's place seems certain to go to the all-rounder, Lance Klusener, who bowls right handed and bats left, while the spinner Paul Adams will come in for the seamer Brett Schultz, who has flown home with a shoulder injury. One other change may be forced on South Africa as David Richardson, their 38-year-old wicket-keeper, has a hamstring problem. Just in case, the South Africans have already flown in Mark Boucher, a 20-year-old who plays for Border.
From the look of the pitch, the bookies would not want to offer worthwhile odds against a draw. That was the result a year ago in a match made remarkable by Wasim Akram's batting. Pakistan were still 37 for 7 in reply to Zimbabwe's 375 when Wasim who finished with 257 not out, and Saqlain Mushtaq, 79, put on a record 313 for the eighth wicket - a partnership which also tells a depressing but all too familiar story about the pitch.Reuse content