The Proteas will continue to experiment when they take on Pakistan in the first ODI at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, writes KHALID MOHIDIN.
After South Africa’s resounding 3-0 Test series whitewash, the sides turn their attention to the ODI format as No 4 takes on No 5 in the ICC rankings.
Final preparations for the World Cup begin in earnest now for both teams as they search for their strongest XI to contest the World Cup in England from May to July.
According to CSA chief executive officer Thabang Moroe, Ottis Gibson’s contract as Proteas coach stipulates that he must win the World Cup. This makes sense, as the term ‘Vision 2019’ was thrown around from the moment he walked into the role in August 2017.
The Proteas’ experimental phase should have ended by now, and they would have been expected to provide their best XI with a chance to build momentum leading up to the tournament starting on 30 May when hosts England face South Africa at The Oval in London.
However, two potential debutants, Rassie van der Dussen and Duanne Olivier, have been selected in the Proteas ODI squad to face Pakistan in the five-match ODI series. Both could get some game time in the opening two matches, with Quinton de Kock and Dale Steyn being rested.
The two new caps-in-waiting owe their selections largely to their sensational performances in the recent MSL, with Van der Dussen (469 runs) and Olivier (20 wickets) topping the runs and wickets lists respectively.
There remain question marks, however, over the No 3 and No 6 positions, hence Van der Dussen and Markram’s inclusions, which will provide competition for Reeza Hendricks and Heinrich Klaasen. There also remains uncertainty regarding whether or not the selectors will settle on the two all-rounders system or go with just one.
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.
The visitors had mixed results last season. They drew to New Zealand 1-1 in the UAE, lost to Bangladesh in the Asia Cup Super Four, beat Zimbabwe 5-0, lost 5-0 in New Zealand and beat Sri Lanka 5-0 in the UAE.
They will be a tough outfit to beat, especially against a Proteas side that is still applying the finishing touches to their World Cup game plan.
Players to Watch
It will be interesting to see who the Proteas select in the opening two matches in the absence of De Kock and Steyn. Both Markram and Van der Dussen are natural replacements for De Kock and will pose major threats as they look to secure a permanent position in the side.
Olivier’s 24 wickets in the Test series could tempt the selectors to give him a go in the opening two ODIs, with Cobras bowler Dane Paterson also in contention to replace Steyn in one or both of the opening two ODIs.
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.
1) Hashim Amla
2) Aiden Markram/Rassie van der Dussen
3) Reeza Hendricks
4) Faf du Plessis
5) David Miller
6) Heinrich Klaasen (wk)
7) Andile Phehlukwayo
8) Kagiso Rabada
9) Dane Paterson
10) Duanne Olivier
11) Imran Tahir
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images