Two teams languishing in the bottom half of the 2019 ICC World Cup table will meet on Sunday when Pakistan take on South Africa in a pivotal clash at Lord’s.
It has been a struggle in the tournament for both teams in green with South Africa all but out of the running for the semi-finals following their latest defeat to New Zealand.
Pakistan, however, still have a chance of qualifying for the top four should they win each of their four remaining clashes.
Here, we look at the three key battles that could decide this crunch clash.
MOHAMMAD AMIR V QUINTON DE KOCK
Mohammad Amir has been one of the rare bright spots in what has been a disappointing campaign for Pakistan. The left-armed pacer wasn’t even selected in the original 15-man squad for the World Cup but Pakistan will be glad that they trusted his experience to do the job in England.
Amir has been carrying the side’s bowling attack almost single-handedly with 13 wickets so far which puts him in third spot in the leading wicket-taker’s list for the tournament.
Pakistan will want the early wicket of Proteas danger man Quinton de Kock and Amir will have the first go at the opener. De Kock has had a mixed campaign with the bat so far in the World Cup but the southpaw is the key with the bat for the Proteas.
When he gets going, South Africa usually score big and Amir will need to stop him early in his tracks.
BABAR V TAHIR
Pakistan’s batting hopes in the World Cup were always going to rest on Babar Azam’s shoulders but the right-hander has failed to really stamp his authority so far.
The 24-year-old has had a couple of good knocks but he is yet to deliver the big innings to take his side across the finish line. Babar’s outrageous talent has never been in doubt and the fact that he has a batting average of more than 50 in both ODIs and T20Is is a testament to his immense class.
While Babar will be desperate to pull out that big innings, he will need to be wary of the threat posed by Imran Tahir. The veteran leg-spinner is still going strong at 40 and has been one of South Africa’s better performers in the World Cup so far with eight wickets.
Tahir has all the variations in his books and is a difficult customer to get away in the middle overs. Pakistan will fancy their chances of winning if Babar can get on top of Tahir and nullify his threat.
FAKHAR V RABADA
One of the major reasons why Pakistan have struggled in the tournament so far has been Fakhar Zaman’s failure at the top of the batting order. The left-hander is one of the most explosive openers when on song but that has simply not happened in the World Cup with a gritty but unconvincing 62 against India being his only innings of note.
He can solve plenty of problems for the Men in Green should he rediscover the form he showed in the 2017 Champions Trophy in England but he will first need to deal with the new-ball threat of Kagiso Rabada for that to happen.
The Proteas pacer has not been at his very best himself despite having a stupendous IPL campaign recently. Rabada has picked only six wickets so far and has only looked menacing in patches.
Both the players might not be firing on all cylinders at the moment but they can give their respective teams the decisive advantage if either one of them comes to the party on Sunday.
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