Patchy South Africa and Pakistan look to get a hand on the trophy with one game to go

Preview

South Africa might want to tinker with their batting personnel, while Pakistan would look for more from their bowlers

Pakistan are at full strength, but South Africa are missing seven first-choice players  

Big picture

Match one went down to the penultimate ball. Match two was as one-sided as they come. What are these two teams really about?

South Africa have been rebuilding for much of the last six years and still don’t seem to have much beyond the outlines of a foundation. They know they have a host of decent players – so much so that even with seven first-choice ones missing, they have packed a decent punch against Pakistan in the two T20Is. The next question is how best to make use of the wealth of talent at their disposal.

While their combinations are dictated largely by player availability, batting is one area they may want to address. Though they have gone into both matches with a surplus of bowlers, their batting line-up appears short of at least one batsman. Calls for Kyle Verreynne – the second-highest run-scorer in the 2018-19 one-day cup – to be included have abounded among public and pundits alike, and it is difficult to see the rest of this series playing out without him making an appearance – whether at the expense of another batsman or as an addition to the line-up.

Pakistan are at full strength but their strongest suit – their bowling – did not look at their best in the first match while they did not have enough to defend in the second. Mohammad Nawaz has been their most threatening presence, but they would be hoping for more incision from legspinner Usman Qadir and left-arm quick Shaheen Shah Afridi.

The second T20I aside, Pakistan’s line-up has shown they can post big totals albeit with only one or two players coming good. Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan lead their run-charge and they will want to see more from the middle-order to develop a complete performance.

Both teams appear to still have plenty of work to do before they are ready for the T20 World Cup, a task for later in the year. With this being a four-match series, whoever wins the next match will have one hand on the trophy.

Form guide

Last five completed matches, most recent first

South Africa WLLWL
Pakistan LWWLW

In the spotlight

Andile Phehlukwayo had the lightest workload in the second T20I, where he neither bowled a ball nor was he required to bat. While the latter suggests the top order did the job it is supposed to, South Africa’s many bowling options means Phehlukwayo is finding himself surplus to requirement at the death despite that being his specialty. Sisanda Magala and Lizaad Williams did a sterling job in giving away just 30 runs besides taking four wickets in the last four overs, and South Africa may have to find a different way to use Phehlukwayo in the middle period.

He earned his 100th cap in the first T20I but Mohammad Hafeez has not made the kind of impression he may have wanted to in this series. With scores of 13 and 32 – and dismissals against the spinners in both innings – Hafeez has some unfinished business against what must be his last tour to southern Africa. He has two previous fifties in South Africa – including his joint second-highest score of 86 – so perhaps a return to a happy hunting ground could bring out the best in him. Pakistan need that, especially as they seek to avoid an over-reliance on their top three.

Team news

South Africa won’t want to tinker too much with the combination that won on Monday. But the continued absence of Verreynne and the difficulties Wihan Lubbe has had in building an innings may mean a change in the top five. There is also the possibility of Rassie van der Dussen, if fit, getting the nod ahead of Verreynne or displacing Pite van Biljon.

South Africa (possible): 1 Aiden Markram, 2 Janneman Malan, 3 Rassie van der Dussen/Kyle Verreynne, 4 Pite van Biljon, 5 Heinrich Klaasen (capt, wk), 6 George Linde, 7 Andile Phehlukwayo 8 Sisanda Magala, 9 Beuran Hendricks, 10 Lizaad Williams, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi

If Fakhar Zaman has not recovered from the rash that kept him out of the second match, Pakistan would have to give Sharjeel Khan another opportunity and would want their line-up to give the attack more to work with.

Pakistan (possible): 1 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 2 Fakhar Zaman/Sharjeel Khan, 3 Babar Azam (capt), 4 Mohammad Hafeez, 5 Haidar Ali, 6 Faheem Ashraf, 7 Hasan Ali, 8 Mohammad Nawaz, 9 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 10 Usman Qadir, 11 Mohammad Hasnain

Pitch and conditions

The series moves back to Centurion for the final two matches, which may suit Pakistan just fine. They won both ODIs here on this tour, chasing in the first match and defending in the second. With the match starting in the afternoon, there shouldn’t be any early moisture. Conditions are expected to be more even irrespective of the teams batting first or second even if the pitch is slightly slower than at the Wanderers. Temperatures have gone up this week, so expect a scorcher at close to 30 degrees.

Stats and trivia

  • There have been 19 T20Is played between South Africa and Pakistan in the past, with South Africa slightly in the advantage with ten wins. If Pakistan win this match, they will even that number.
  • South Africa haven’t won a T20I series since beating Sri Lanka at home in March 2019. Similarly, Pakistan haven’t won a T20I series played outside Pakistan or the UAE since 2018.
  • Shaheen Afridi has had an economy rate of ten or more runs only four times in 23 T20I matches, but twice in two games this series.

Quotes

“We’ve got a game plan going towards the World Cup, so we’re trying to buy into that. If we can play that type of cricket now leading into the World Cup, then we know how exactly to go about things when it does come.”
According to George Linde, South Africa will continue to employ an aggressive approach as the build their brand ahead of the T20 World Cup

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

Source: ESPN Crickinfo

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