Hafeez could lose his place

Struggling opening batsman Mohammad Hafeez could lose his place in the Pakistan team for next month's two-test series against South Africa after scoring only 102 runs in his 10 test innings this year. South Africa whitewashed Pakistan 3-0 in test series in February and the team then lost to Zimbabwe last month to squeeze out a 1-1 draw mainly due to lack of batting form of its players. Hafeez said in Lahore that it's "not acceptable to lose a test match against Zimbabwe" and if selectors drop someone "it's always a challenge for that player to work hard and prove that he is good enough."

South Africa is the team against which Hafeez has always struggled, scoring only one half century and a total of 307 runs in 18 innings. This includes a total of only 43 runs in six test innings in February in Johannesburg, Cape Town and Centurion. He scored only 59 runs in four test innings in Harare. "It (lack of form) could happen to any big cricketer, there's no tension or pressure on me," Hafeez said. "It's not the matter of (problem in) technique, the ball is coming on to my bat but I am not playing big innings."

A highly unlikely place in a test team for Hafeez could be if he bats down the order at No. 6, where Asad Shafiq bats. "It's not my decision to bat low down the order, it's the job of team management," Hafeez said. "I am always available for the team wherever I am required." Hafeez is one of few Pakistan players along with off-spinner Saeed Ajmal and fast bowler Junaid Khan who have been playing regularly in all the three formats — one-day internationals, twenty20 and test matches — for the last two years. He even leads in Twenty20s, in which Pakistan has risen to No. 2 in the world. "When you play a big innings your body and your mindset start playing according to that format," Hafeez said. Hafeez scored prolifically in the ODI series against Zimbabwe which Pakistan won 2-1 and was even named Man of the Series, but critics have questioned his ability in test matches.

"I was man of the series in one-day series and I scored a century. I was No. 1 allrounder, but nobody highlighted it," Hafeez said. "I am not saying that people should not criticize, but it should be for right reasons." In 2010, South Africa drew the test series against Pakistan 0-0 in Dubai and Abu Dhabi — venues chosen for next month's two test series. While Pakistan batting has been struggling for a long time now, spinners Ajmal and Abdul Rehman give them edge over the Proteas after both ran through England's batting lineup in a 3-0 test victory in the United Arab Emirates last year. "Both teams are familiar with conditions, but we have better spinners — according to international rankings — and I hope it will be a good series," Hafeez said.