There’s no room for error as the Proteas face Pakistan in the series decider at Newlands, writes KHALID MOHIDIN.
It all boils down to this. A final bout between the Proteas and Pakistan at Newlands that will determine the series winner. The contest has seesawed between the two sides, with Pakistan taking the first blow with a victory in the opening ODI.
The Proteas have struggled to find consistency with the bat, something Pakistan has managed to produce with their top order putting in regular performances to give their side the edge. Their bowlers have put up their hands too and have managed to find a great balance between their spin and seam attack.
The Proteas’ game plan still seems a bit wonky. There is a clear disconnect between the message that was given by Ottis Gibson last year and the performances on the field. The promise of ‘positive cricket’ has not been visible in the first four ODIs against Pakistan, other than in the third ODI when Faf du Plessis and Reeza Hendricks were forced into boosting the run rate to stay ahead of the DLS par score.
Pakistan have shown their intent and have the edge in the contest with the bat. In order for the hosts to finish this series with the trophy, they need to put Pakistan’s bowlers under pressure immediately and dominate in the power play.
The Proteas will need to draw confidence from their record at Newlands. They have won 28 of their 33 ODIs at Newlands. However, one of those five defeats was to Pakistan in November 2013 when Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock and David Miller scored 26 runs between them. After their failure to score runs in the fourth ODI at the Bull Ring, the clash at Newlands will provide them with the opportunity to erase their last memory against Pakistan on the ground.
There was a shock call-up to the squad when domestic in-form Wiaan Mulder was called back into the side, despite his Lions side hunting down a massive bonus-point win against the Warriors to lift the 4-Day-Franchise series trophy. This could mean that the youngster will slot back into the No 7 position that he occupied before his major ankle injury in October which ruled him out for three months. If he is not selected, his call-up for this last ODI seems puzzling.
Players to Watch
Quinton de Kock will crave some runs. After scoring a duck in his 100th ODI, the Proteas opener will be hungry to erase that blip. He will look to do so on the grounds that he batted phenomenally for the Cape Town Blitz in the Mzansi Super League side. De Kock scored 86 not out and 93 at Newlands during the MSL campaign, and needs a score like that to give the Proteas the necessary foundation to dominate.
Kagiso Rabada has performed below the level expected of him in ODIs. He has yet to replicate his Test performances in the ODI arena. However, on a Newlands pitch with a little movement, KG can definitely hassle the Pakistani batsmen.
Usman Shinwari will be a bigger threat on the Newlands wicket after taking 4-35 on a relatively even wicket at the Bull Ring. Newlands tends to provide a little extra nip that will aid the left-arm seamer.
Babar Azam will also be dangerous. The 24-year-old showed glimpses of what he is capable of, and has not yet shown his full capabilities. He could be dangerous on a wicket that suits his attacking mindset.
1) Hashim Amla
2) Quinton de Kock
3) Reeza Hendricks
4) Faf du Plessis
5) David Miller
6) Rassie van der Dussen
7) Wiaan Mulder
8) Andile Phehulukwayo
9) Dale Steyn
10) Kagiso Rabada
11) Imran Tahir
2) Fakhar Zaman
3) Babar Azam
4) Mohammad Hafeez
5) Shoaib Malik (c)
6) Mohammad Rizwan
7) Shadab Khan
8) Imad Wasim
9) Mohammad Amir
10) Usman Shinwari
11) Shaheen Afridi
Photo: Bertram Malgas/Gallo Images