In two years between 2011 and 2012, Pakistan and South Africa faced off only once, which was a Super Eight match of the World Twenty20 in Colombo. In ten months this year these two teams have already met 19 times across the three formats and the Twenty20I at Johannesburg will kick start the third bilateral series of the year between them so much so that the fans have started to consider these contests as perennial and monotonous as India-Sri Lanka fixtures.
Although it is true that the fixtures between South Africa and Pakistan have become monotonic, the benefits of the coming T20s and One Day Internationals can not be overlooked.
It is worth mentioning here that the Zimbabwe tour in September was Pakistan’s last outside Asia until World Cup 2015 in the ICC’s FTP. The South Africa tour, albeit it has only 2 T20s and three ODIs, will somehow provide the youngsters an opportunity to thrive on bouncy wickets and prepare for the World Cup which is now 14 months away. The 5 limited-overs matches will also in some way help South Africa to fill the void left vacant by BCCI’s tussle with CSA, which resulted in cancelation of one Test, four ODIs and two T20s.
Pakistan camp was hit by injuries on the eve of first T20. Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Malik have been compelled to travel back to home, which leaves the current squad in Johannesburg consisting of only 13 members as Misbah-ul-Haq and Asad Shafiq, who were initially part of only ODI plans, are in Cape Town. The unavailability of the two injured players could turn out to be a blessing in disguise as Pakistan’s XI appeared overloaded with all-rounders during the two T20s in the UAE last week.
On the other hand, the Proteas have no plans to take this series lightly. If the headline of Cricket South Africa’s press release on Tuesday is anything to go by, South Africa plan for a ‘ruthless’ start. “Pakistan are desperate as a team to put in some good performances,” Du Plessis said prior to the squad’s training session on Tuesday. “They are under pressure to put some things right, especially from a bowling point of view. From our side, it’s important that we don’t give them a sniff in these two games coming up. If we can make sure we keep our foot on the gas, the pressure will get to them.”
Watch out for
Sohaib Maqsood was perhaps the only positive sign Pakistan showed during the limited-overs series in the UAE. He scored back to back fifties, showing lot of promise and gusto. He was also highest run-getter in both the 50-over domestic tournaments in Pakistan last season. However, playing in South Africa against the likes of Dale Steyn and Ryan McLaren will be a new challenge for him as most of the Asian batsmen, despite immense talent, have struggled in this part of the world.
Dale Steyn grabbed five wickets in the two T20Is in Dubai last week. The performance came after he laid down his ambitions to excel in Twenty20 Cricket. He will be up against Pakistan with same gung ho to prove his worth as a T20 Cricketer. It goes without saying that Steyn has threatened Pakistan more than any other individual in recent past.
Weather and conditions
The news is not good for Cricket as far as weather is concerned. There is rain forecast on Wednesday in Johannesburg. The Wanderers stadium with short boundaries and lightening quick outfield has history of favouring batsmen in the limited-overs cricket in last few years. Having said that there will be bounce and pace in the pitch, which will be a Test for Pakistan batsmen who even struggled on the slow, low wickets of the UAE.
Stats and Trivia
It will be 20th international match between these two teams this year.
The average 1st innings total at the Wanderers Johannesburg in Twenty20s is 167, the highest for any Cricket venue. The following table shows the top ten:
|Average 1st innings total in T20Is (Minimum: 10 matches)|
|Johannesburg (The Wanderers)||
|Nottingham (Trent Bridge)||
|Gros Islet (St. Lucia)||
Mazher Arshad is a journalist and statistician based in Pakistan. Follow him on Twitter.
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