Losing the first two Tests of a new year would certainly not have been on Pakistan’s wishlist for 2019, but as they switch kits from white to green less than six months away from a 50-over World Cup, there’s a lot to play for.
The gulf in quality that was evidently visible during the five-day affairs despite Pakistan’s fight every now and then will not be the same in the ODI format.
Having completed a comprehensive sweep over Pakistan in the three-Test series, hosts South Africa will hope to extend their dominant run of form into white-ball cricket. Skipper Faf du Plessis will be keen to get a series victory under his belt ahead of the 2019 ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup.
For Pakistan, after the red-ball whitewash they suffered in the Test series, they now enter a world that is more familiar territory for them – the white-ball format. Mickey Arthur’s men won the Champions Trophy in 2017 and are ranked No 1 in the T20 format. They will be more difficult opponents for the home side.
Timing: 01:00 PM Local Time and 04:00 PM PKT
Venue: St. George’s Park, Port Elizabeth
Weather: A mostly sunny day in the offing. Pakistan have the highest score at this venue to their name – 335 scored way back in 2002.
Conditions: The forecast for Port Elizabeth predicts cloudy conditions midway through the game, which, in South African conditions, may be conducive to seam bowling. There could be a little rain around in the morning before the game, but the afternoon should be mostly sunny and the evening mild.
Head to Head:
Matches: 73 | South Africa: 47 | Pakistan: 25 | NR: 1
South Africa: W L W W W (completed matches, most recent first)
Pakistan W L L L W
It remains to be seen if Shan Masood’s purple patch during the Test series – 228 runs – will earn him a 50-over ticket in Port Elizabeth, or if they stick with the opening pair of Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq.
Pakistan’s pace battery, which has been their strongest suit over the years, looks daunting once again. The likes of Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir and Shaheen Afridi will enjoy bowling on the seam-friendly conditions in Port Elizabeth. The teenager Afridi impressed in bursts during the Test series, claiming nine Proteas scalps in two games.
The visitors will rely heavily on their experienced batting line-up, especially seasoned campaigners like Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez. In-form batsmen Shan Masood and Babar Azam – Pakistan’s leading run-scorers in the Test series – will also play a significant part.
Pakistan will certainly be bolstered by the presence of the middle-order duo of Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, while the rest of the line-up too picks itself.
Pakistan have a refocused Mohammad Hafeez back in the mix; while he has retired from Test cricket, he is still available for the limited-overs format. The 38-year-old is ranked No 4 on the all-rounder rankings and will add valuable experience to a young Pakistan side.
Pakistan’s Probable XI:
1. Fakhar Zaman, 2. Imam-ul-Haq/Shan Masood, 3. Mohammad Hafeez, 4. Babar Azam, 5. Shoaib Malik, 6. Sarfraz Ahmed (c) (wk), 7. Faheem Ashraf, 8. Shadab Khan, 9. Imad Wasim, 10. Hasan Ali, 11. Mohammad Amir
2. South Africa:
The Proteas’ bowling attack looks potent with the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, and Andile Phehlukwayo in their ranks. Additionally, Duanne Olivier, who was exceptional in the Tests, has also been drafted into the 14-man squad in place of the rested Dale Steyn for the first two ODIs.
Their batting line-up, however, looks a tad inexperienced, with JP Duminy out with injury and Quinton de Kock rested. A lot will depend on the experienced duo of du Plessis and Hashim Amla in the first two games.
Reeza Hendricks managed just 68 runs in three outings in Australia where South Africa pulled off a series victory. With Hashim Amla returning, Hendricks’s place in the top-order might be under scrutiny.
With very few games to go until the World Cup, now could be the time to give a talent like Rassie van der Dassen – who impressed at the inaugural Mzansi Super League – a go in the top-order.
The absence of de Kock and Steyn (for the first two ODIs) means, a) Heinrich Klaasen will have to don the keeping gloves and b) Olivier could get an extended run in a home series (and his maiden ODI cap) where he’s swiftly earned the reputation of being the opposition’s tormentor-in-chief.
South Africa’s Probable XI:
1. Aiden Markram, 2. Rassie van der Dussen, 3. Hashim Amla, 4. Faf du Plessis (c), 5. Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 6. David Miller, 7. Andile Phehlukwayo, 8. Dane Paterson, 9. Dwaine Pretorius, 10. Imran Tahir, 11. Kagiso Rabada
Stats and trivia:
- Pakistan have never lost against South Africa at St George’s Park, winning two of the three ODIs at this ground, with one game rained off.
- Pakistan hold the record for the highest total scored at this ground: their 335 for 6 back in 2002.
- David Miller usually finds conditions at St. George’s Park to his liking. He averages 113.50 from four innings at this ground, with a fifty and an unbeaten hundred to his name, and strikes at 94.97 here.
819 – Runs scored by Imam-ul-Haq in ODIs thus far. He’ll need another 181 runs in the next two innings to level Fakhar Zaman’s record. The left-hander will break the record of Sir Vivian Richards (21 innings) in case he gets there within the next four innings.
304 – The runs Hashim Amla has to score in the next eight innings to break Virat Kohli’s record of being fastest to 8,000 ODI runs. The South African will be eyeing at breaking this record in this series itself.