Pakistan vs. South Africa T20: Match Preview
The first of two T20 matches between Pakistan and South Africa will be played today at the Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
With all the controversies and scandals surrounding Pakistan cricket, the Pakistan cricket team will be starting as favourites to win the T20 series, because the Pakistan side has an impressive record in this format of the game,
and also because they will be playing in the United Arab Emirates, where they have an excellent record in all the formats of the game.
Pakistan also happens to have an impressive record against South Africa, particularly in T20’s. The last time these two teams clashed, was at the quarterfinals of the T20 World Cup in West Indies where Pakistan defeated South Africa
to reach the semi finals.
Earlier, in 2009, during the T20 World Cup in England these two teams faced each other in the semi final at Cardiff, where Pakistan defeated South African by eight runs in a nail biter to qualify for the final, and eventually win
the T20 title that year.
Having said that, it will not be an easy match for Pakistan; The Green shirts will have to work really hard to beat the Proteas because they are a world class outfit.
South Africa have been twice knocked out of the T20 World Cups by Pakistan but those were big occasions and South Africa are famous as “Chokers”, who choke at the highest level when pressure is put on them. This is not a World
Cup; it’s a bilateral series and South Africa are really good at winning such games.
South Africa will be coming into the series with loads of confidence after having crushed Zimbabwe in the T20 and One day Internationals. Now they also have under their belt a world record of winning an ODI by the highest margin
(South Africa won by 272 runs in the 3rd ODI against Zimbabwe). On paper both teams are neck to neck, with both having something or the other to look forward to, as well as to bank on.
Pakistan’s top order is a bit inexperienced and the side will be heavily dependent on the skipper Shahid Khan Afridi and other veterans. His performance in the lower order will be really crucial for Pakistan. Another hard hitting
batsman is Abdul Razzaq, who can turn the course of any match within seconds. South Africa will have to make sure that these two explosive batsmen do not stay at the crease for long.
Pakistan has three openers; Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat and Shahzaib Hasan. Though, they are yet to finalize their opening pair. In the middle order Pakistan have Umar Akmal, who is flamboyant in nature and has impressed everyone
after making his international debut. Then there are Misbah-ul-Haq and Fawad Alam; they are perhaps the weakest link in this Pakistani outfit simply because Fawad Alam cannot hit sixes and big boundaries, but he is an excellent fielder so Pakistan can play
him as a 12th man, while Misbah’s age (36) does not allow him to play the demanding international T20 format anymore.
South Africa have a set opening pair in the form of Graeme Smith and Loots Bosman; both can be very dangerous on a given day. Jacques Kallis can also open the batting, and Bosman has scored the third fastest 50 in T20’s. In the
middle order South Africa have the experienced Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and Jean-Paul Duminy and then they have Albie Morkel playing at number 6 or 7 who is somewhat similar to Abdul Razzaq or in some cases even better.
Bowling has always been the strength of Pakistan; they will surely miss Mohammad Amir but even without Amir, Pakistan bowling looks good. The Pakistan bowling attack will be spearheaded by Umar Gul, who is the highest wicket taker
in T20 cricket (47 wickets in 23 matches).
Also, Shoaib Akhtar (35) has made an impressive comeback to international cricket in the recently concluded series against England. If the Rawalpindi Express stays on track, he too is capable of demolishing any batting lineup.
On the other hand, South Africa’s pace battery consists of Dale Steyn, Wayne Parnell and Morne Morkel. Dale Steyn can be really dangerous for the Pakistan team because he has got pace and maintains his line whereas, Wayne Parnell
the lanky fast bowler, who made his international debut couple of years ago at the age of 17, has been impressive since then and can create a few problems for the Pakistani batsmen as well.
As far as the spin department is concerned, Saeed Ajmal has been the major contributor in his team’s success. His “doosra” can create a lot of trouble for the South African Batsmen who are not very good at playing spin.
The South African Spin department depends on their newly appointed skipper Johan Botha, who has been stopped from bowling the “doosra” by ICC. Therefore, without the “doosra” he is just an average bowler and should not be very
difficult to play.
Fielding is the department where certainly South Africa are far more superior than their Pakistani counterparts. South Africa can easily save 15-20 runs and get a run out or two with their fielding, whereas Pakistan has always
been let down by their fielding.
Finally the top 5 players from both teams who can win today’s match for their teams are:
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Umer Gul, Saeed Ajmal and Shoaib Akhtar.
South Africa: Jacques Kallis, Albie Morkel, Ab de Villiers, Dale Steyn and Graeme Smith.
Overall both the teams are neck to neck in comparison on paper. It can be anybody’s game as anyone who plays well and holds their nerves under pressure will win this contest.