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.
After the comprehensive defeat to India in their last game, Pakistan’s World Cup hopes hang by a thread. What’s worse, Sarfraz was caught on camera yawning on more than one occasion during India’s innings as they posted 336-5.
The wicketkeeper batsman had been receiving criticism for his less than ideal fitness levels, to go with his struggles as a player. But one Pakistan cricket follower took things too far as he hounded the Pakistan skipper, who was out and about with his family in a mall.
In the video the unidentified man walks up to Sarfraz, who is with his son, and body shames the keeper, asking him “why are you fat as a pig?”
The video went viral and received widespread criticism for the crude language and lack of respect shown to the player and his family.
Less than 24 hours after the controversy, the Pakistan cricket follower who uploaded the video apologised for his actions.
Pakistan take on South Africa next on Sunday.
The Lord’s will witness a crucial game at the tail end of the 2019 ICC World Cup with Pakistan set to lock horns against South Africa at the historic venue on Sunday.
This will be the first 2019 World Cup game to be held in the historic ground. In all likelihood, the losing team of this do-or-die game will be heading home after the group stage.
Pakistan enter the fixture after their poor performance in defeat against India caused an uproar on social media. The 1992 champions are in need of a competitive performance in order to make a statement.
The Proteas conceded a narrow defeat to New Zealand in the first thriller of the tournament and need the two points as much as the Men in Green.
We take a look at some of the talking points ahead of the crucial tie.
Mohammad Amir requires a better support cast
Having scalped 13 wickets so far, pace-man Mohammad Amir is the third highest wicket-taker of the tournament. Sadly, a combination of this statistic and a look at Pakistan’s position in the table says a lot more about the team than it does about Amir.
Pakistan’s bowling department has barely provided any support the 27-year-old who has been phenomenal in crunch games. He troubled the Aussie openers before claiming a fifer in a losing cause. A few days later, Amir produced a terrific death spell against India and saved at least 30-40 runs.
Although Wahab Riaz has shown up sporadically, the rest of the bowlers have failed to support him. The team needs to step up and get the best out of Amir against the Proteas.
South Africa need to go the extra mile
While Faf du Plessis’ men started well in an attempt to defend a modest total of 241 against New Zealand, they seemingly lost the plot as they carried on. The Kiwis were reeling at 137/5 in the 33rd over before Colin de Grandhomme and Kane Williamson staged a come-back.
Taking nothing away from the New Zealand skipper’s brilliance, South Africa’s lack of conviction had as much of a part to play in their defeat.
The same can be said about their defeat to Bangladesh a couple of weeks ago. Tasked to chase a mammoth total of 330, the Proteas reached 200 after losing just three wickets. With 15 overs remaining and seven wickets in hand, putting 130 runs on the board on a batting surface was not particularly a hard ask. But South Africa crumbled and failed to compliment a good start with a good finish.
In both games, the Proteas have failed to go the extra mile that is needed to win them the two points. They are virtually out of the tournament but a repeat of the same could mathematically confirm their departure.