Our prediction is a to be a close win for the South Africa team in the first Test!
Hosts South Africa will be looking to kick-start their home season on a good note when they will face Pakistan in the opening game of the Test series in Centurion on Wednesday. South Africa have not played much red-ball cricket this year. Captain Faf du Plessis will be hoping that the side can start well in the first game of the series.
On the other hand, Pakistan lost their home series to New Zealand in the UAE. The side will face an uphill task as a lot of players will be making their first trip to South Africa. Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed will be hoping that side can adjust to the conditions in South Africa.
The home side has suffered a setback of sorts as pace bowler Vernon Philander will miss the opening game of the series due to an injury. Uncapped Dane Paterson has been named as a replacement for Philander.
In this game, the side will be dependent on skipper Faf du Plessis to lead from the front in the batting department. He has gone through a lean run with the bat and scored only 463 runs in 9 matches at an average of 27.73. Du Plessis will need to raise his game to help South Africa get off to decent start.
The opening pair of Dean Elgar and Aiden Markram have been excellent for South Africa so far this year. Markam is the leading run-scorer for South Africa this year with 660 runs in 9 matches with two centuries to his name.
The worry for South Africa in the batting department is the form of Hashim Amla, who has struggled to produce big scores this year. He has scored 439 runs in 9 matches at an average of 24.38. South Africa will be hoping that Amla can find form in this game and produce something special with the bat against Pakistan.
In the bowling department, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn will be frontline seamers for this game. Duanne Olivier will be as third seamer in the XI. Dane Paterson or Keshav Maharaj will fight for a place in the side depending on the conditions at SuperSport Park.
Faf du Plessis (captain), Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Dean Elgar, Theunis De Bruyn, Temba Bavuma, Dale Steyn, Duanne Olivier, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj/Dane Paterson
On the other hand, Pakistan did well in their warm-up game against South African Invitational XI in Benoni. Azhar Ali and Babar Azam smashed hundreds to help Pakistan win the game by 6 wickets.
In the batting department, the team will be relying on Babar Azam to produce the bulk of the scoring. Azam has certainly excelled in red-ball cricket this year and has scored 539 runs at an average of 59.88. Left-hander Haris Sohail also has done exceedingly well this year and has topped the batting charts for Pakistan with 550 runs in 8 matches.
The experienced duo of Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq will need to be more consistent with the bat. Azhar Ali has suffered from inconsistency in Test cricket and has scored 481 runs in 8 matches at an average of 32.06.
In the bowling department, pacer Hasan Ali is certainly in good form with the ball. He picked up wickets in the recently concluded three-match Test series against New Zealand played in the UAE. Leg-spinner Yasir Shah will be looking to make an impact with the ball on his first trip to South Africa.
Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Asad Shafiq, Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain & wk), Yasir Shah, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir, Shaheen Shah Afridi
The pitch generally at SuperSport Park provides a lot of assistance to pace bowlers. There will be plenty of bounce and pace for the seamers. The weather for the Boxing Day Test is expected to be dry and sunny.
The venue always provides a good contest between bat and ball. It has certainly been a happy hunting ground for South Africa, who have lost only two games at the venue since readmission in 1992.
Both teams might want to bat first at SuperSport Park. As the match will go on, the surface always tends to get uneven and difficult for batting. With sunshine around, it is preferable to put runs on the board.