Dubai wicket should favour Pakistan's slow bowlers

Shahid Afridi believes his team's gripping series with South Africa will be decided by two low-scoring encounters in Dubai.

DUBAI // Shahid Afridi, the captain of Pakistan's limited-overs side, believes his team's gripping series with South Africa will be decided by two low-scoring encounters on a worn pitch at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

After leaving behind pitch conditions which Afridi deemed to be a "paradise for batsmen" in Abu Dhabi, the players have been confronted with a new challenge in Dubai.

The ground staff plan to use the same batting pitch for all three one-day internationals of the Dubai leg of this five match series.

Judging by the way the wicket played on Tuesday night, when South Africa won by defending a seemingly modest tally of 229, the batsmen are in for a tough time.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) - rather than Sports City's curator - have the authority over how the pitch is prepared, as it is nominally their home series.

Given that their strength traditionally lies with their slow bowlers, the PCB are usually happy to provide a pitch conducive to turn.

When the Sports City ground first opened for business with a match between Australia and Pakistan last year, the ball turned sharply from the start.

"It will be very difficult playing three matches on the same track," Afridi, who bowls leg-spin, said. "The ball will keep low and I think the totals will be very small."

Johan Botha, who has been South Africa's stand-in captain for the last two matches, is likely to have a key role to play with his off-spin bowling if his side are to clinch the series in tomorrow's fourth game.

"The wicket is not going to get any easier," Botha said. "All three games are being played on the same strip, so that is going to be interesting.

"It is going to be tough, but hopefully we can squeeze out a win to get to 3-1."

Meanwhile, the PCB has suspended the central contracts of Salman Butt, Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif while they are being investigated for alleged spot-fixing during the recent tour to England.

A senior PCB official said the contracts were suspended in line with the International Cricket Council's (ICC) anti-corruption code.

Butt and Aamer's appeals against indefinite suspensions were rejected by the ICC last week.

"Their contracts were active until the appeal hearing but once their initial appeals were rejected under the ICC code we can't keep them on contracts," the PCB's Zakir Khan said.