South Africa's JP Duminy enjoys challenge of playing against Pakistan in testing conditions

JP Duminy has been one of South Africa’s main stays in the limited-over formats © AFP

By Shayan Siddiqui 

The current series between Pakistan and South Africa in the UAE kicked off in scintillating fashion with two Test matches in which the honours were shared evenly. With some phenomenal performances by both sides in the longer form of the game, it was expected that the five-match One-Day International (ODI) series that followed would also follow a similar pattern in terms of the intensity of conflict between the two teams. With added memories of a humiliation in Test matches in South Africa and the disappointment of losing the ODI series fresh in the minds of the Pakistani players, this ODI series in the UAE, therefore, commenced in an equally hard fought manner.
Pakistan lost the first ODI in Sharjah from a position of strength when their batting collapsed but then struck back strongly in Dubai in the second ODI with a combined pace and spin assault. With the series poised at 1-1, both teams now turn their attention to the third game of the series at the UAE’s third international venue, Abu Dhabi.
The UAE has long been regarded as a safe haven for batsmen but the nature of the results of the two games played so far has laid waste to this theory. The first two ODIs were dominated by the bowlers with the visitors’ pacers supported by Imran Tahir causing all sorts of problems for a brittle Pakistani batting lineup, while the hosts’ array of talented spinners spun webs around South Africa’s batsmen in the middle overs of both games.
For the visitors, the challenge of facing the Pakistani spinners was expected to be a daunting task as it has proved so far with the hosts’ spin trio taking the majority of the wickets. However, amongst the carnage caused by the likes of Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Hafeez, it was Colin Ingram and JP Duminy who seemed to have weathered the trial by spin and have only been dismissed by pacers in both games.
The 29-year-old left-hander from Cape Town, Duminy has been one of South Africa’s main stays in the limited-over formats. In 106 ODI games, he has scored 3,004 runs, including three hundreds and 16 fifties, at an impressive average of 39.52 with a highest score of 150 not out. In the ongoing series, Duminy started well in both ODIs, reaching scores of 20 and 25 before getting out and in exclusive remarks to, he spoke about the challenges of facing the Pakistan attack as well as the experience of playing in tough conditions such as those in the UAE.
  Mohammad Irfan has been one of the more successful fast bowlers of the series so far, taking four wickets, and during the recently concluded Test series he formed a potent opening bowling partnership with Junaid Khan. Whilst commenting on the difficulty of facing the pace duo, Duminy stated “Irfan is obviously a difficult bowler to face but once you face him a few times it becomes a bit easier to handle him. He is a challenging bowler to face but I think we have come up with good game plans on how to play against him. The Pakistan pace attack is right up there with the best in the world. Irfan’s height makes him a challenge especially with the bounce he extracts and Junaid is consistent, bowling tight lengths which can be tough to score off. He also swings the ball really well. They are great bowlers, and we definitely give them the respect they deserve as batsmen. In saying that, we have faced them quite a bit in the last year so we have mastered ways to play against them.”
However it’s the spinners that have caused most of the problems for South Africa with Ajmal, Afridi and Hafeez having combined figures of 47.4 overs, five maidens, 13 wickets for 156 runs across the first two ODIs. Duminy highlighted the fact that it should come as no surprise that the Pakistani spinners have been so successful, “Ajmal isn’t one of the best bowlers in the world for no reason. Pakistan’s spin attack has been a great challenge for us, especially in these conditions which suit them. Ajmal’s use of variation is his strength, he definitely keeps you on your feet as a batsman. He is right up there as far as the best spinners I’ve faced in the world. The spinners really complement each other well, with Hafeez and Afridi also posing a threat.”
Although Duminy hasn’t got into his groove with the bat in the series yet, he also offers his captain a bowling option with his occasional off-spin. With an average of 41.36 in ODIs, he has been used sparingly in the current series but his Test bowling average of 37.94 suggests there is something to work on. Duminy indicated that this is an area he is looking to improve on and commented on which of the three formats he prefers most.
“I think for me as a part-time spin option, I’ve always focused on containing and if the wickets come it will be a bonus. I’ve worked hard on my bowling and I feel I understand my game plans a lot better — hopefully this can bring more wickets. I enjoy playing in all three formats but obviously playing Tests for South Africa is the pinnacle for any cricketer. I think each format comes with various challenges, but personally I find I enjoy playing all three.”
The South African players have used a range of innovative methods of combating the high temperatures and humidity in the UAE including cooling vests and iced bandanas. When asked about the difficulty of batting in these conditions and trusting your natural skills and instincts, Duminy stated that “It’s been tough batting in these conditions and succeeding brings a certain pleasure. I certainly enjoy every challenge I’m faced with when I’m out in the middle. Technique is important, we have had to change a few things for the conditions that we are playing in but natural instinct will always come into play and sometimes that’s the best way to play. Sometimes you have to play according to the situation that you are faced with but if you back your skill and your instincts, it’s a good combination for success,” he concluded.
The third and fourth ODIs of the series both take place at Abu Dhabi on Wednesday and Friday respectively, before the players return to Sharjah for the final game on November 11. The tour concludes with two T20Is in Dubai on November 13 and 15.
(Shayan Siddiqui is a writer and moderator at, from where the above interview is sourced with permission)