Before the series began, Sarfraz identified Yasir Shah as the primary threat to South Africa. He labelled him World Class. Personally, I felt it was him trying to take pressure of the fast men and putting the onus on Yasir. However, in practice the leg spinner has become an afterthought for the skipper. While in Centurion, there was justification of the tactic, in the 2nd test with South Africa batting for 124 overs, Yasir should have been used more judiciously.
In the 1st test, he bowled a total of 11.4 overs. Most of them coming in the 2nd innings after the match had more or less drifted out of Pakistan’s reach. His sole wicket was when De Bruyn ventured out of the crease for no apparent reason to get stumped. In Cape Town, in 2013 Saeed Ajmal had a 10 wicket haul. Yasir Shah in comparison albeit on a different wicket bowled less over than all frontline pacers. Perhaps it’s a combination of lack of effectiveness on part of Yasir and Sarfraz’s own reluctance.
Shaheen Shah Afridi, went for nearly 5 runs per over but bowled 6 more over than Yasir. The leg spinner bowled with decent economy of 3.7 but never threatened as such. There was a release ball once an over by Yasir’s standards. There would be a couple of balls which demanded respect but soon a release ball was offered. Due to whatever reason he was unable to bowl on a consistent length and line. This meant, that Sarfraz had either 2 or 3 men deep. Had Sarfraz trusted him a little more, giving attacking fields, may be things would have been different. But like in Australia and New Zealand, Yasir was nullified completely.
This raises the question, why play him when he wouldn’t be bowling at crunch situations. If the captain doesn’t trust him in these conditions, why is he in the 11? He offers nothing with the bat, flinching at the hint of a short ball. Surely, Faheem Ashraf could have done his job at Cape Town and perhaps little bit better than him.
Before the 3rd test starts, team management has lots of decisions to make. Perhaps, shelving the Fakhar Zaman experiment and dropping Yasir Shah could make way for Shadab Khan and Faheem Ashraf. Pakistan is already staring at a 3-0 loss. What’s the worst that could happen?