Visitors bank on white-ball comforts and other talking points ahead of first SA v Pakistan ODI

Waseem Ahmed 18/01/2019
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Pakistan are a different beast in limited-overs cricket.

After a lopsided Test series where the hosts ran rampant, South Africa and Pakistan will now turn their attentions towards limited-overs cricket, starting with the five ODIs.

While the gulf between the two sides was evident in the Test format, they are more evenly matched when it comes to one-dayers with South Africa holding the fourth spot while Pakistan are placed in fifth.

As the two sides get ready to take the field in the first ODI at Port Elizabeth on Saturday, we take a look at the key talking points.

PAKISTAN LOOK TO WHITE-BALL COMFORTS

While they were at the receiving end of a whitewash in the Test matches, Pakistan can take comfort from their limited-overs form where they have been one of the most exciting teams to watch over the past two years or so.

The Men in Green have been the runaway leaders for some time now in the T20 format where they have won 11 series on the bounce. However, they will be desperate to translate that remarkable consistency into their ODI showings as well.

Sarfraz Ahmed and his men failed to get going in the 50-over format in 2018 with a 5-0 whitewash over minnows Zimbabwe being their only silver lining. They now have a chance to remedy those woes and get their 2019 campaign off to a flyer.

It will be important for them to perform well in South Africa to generate some momentum heading into the ICC World Cup in England later this summer.

Shoaib Malik's experience will buoy Pakistan.

Shoaib Malik’s experience will buoy Pakistan.

RASSIE VAN DER DUSSEN SET FOR PROTEAS DEBUT

While the hosts will be without the services of Quinton de Kock and Dale Steyn for the first two ODIs, they have an exciting talent in the form of Rassie van der Dussen primed for a one-day debut.

The 29-year-old finished as the top-scorer in the recent Mzansi Super League T20 he racked up a total of 469 runs in 11 innings at a strike-rate of nearly 139. Capable of batting in any spot across the batting order, Dussen has the capability of changing the momentum of the game in a matter of overs.

He is not the only South African in line for an ODI debut on Saturday with pacer Duanne Olivier also in the fray. With Steyn rested and Lungi Ngidi missing with injury, Olivier could be just what the hosts need to compliment Kagiso Rabada in the pace battery.

The seamer destroyed Pakistan in the Test series with a staggering 24-wicket haul and his short-pitched bowling could work a treat against their batsmen in the limited-overs formats as well.

Russen is set to make his ODI debut on Friday.

Russen is set to make his ODI debut on Friday.

SARFRAZ WRESTLES WITH OPENING DILEMMA

While Pakistan skipper Sarfraz will be delighted to have the services of veterans Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez in the limited-overs clashes, he has a difficult decision to make when it comes to the opening slots.

Despite his Test disappointment, Fakhar Zaman will be key for Pakistan at the top in the ODIs but who he is partnered with remains to be seen. Imam-ul-Haq has been a consistent performer in the format since his international debut and has four tons to his name in just 16 innings.

However, Sarfraz also has the option of handing Shan Masood an ODI debut and given the batsman’s performance in the Test series where he finished as Pakistan’s top-scorer, it would be hard for the skipper to turn him down.

That would mean breaking up the Fakhar-Imam combination but with the World Cup coming up in a few months, the Pakistan camp will like to take a look at all the options at their disposal.

Shan Masood could be in the fray for an ODI debut.

Shan Masood could be in the fray for an ODI debut.

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Sarfraz looking to identify Pakistan's strengths for the World Cup in ODI series

Waseem Ahmed 18/01/2019
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Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed.

Pakistan skipper Sarfraz Ahmed has termed Fakhar Zaman as one of the most important players in his side ahead of the first ODI against South Africa at Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

The opening batsman had a miserable time in the Test series against the Proteas where he was dropped for the final match after disappointing displays in the first two games. However, Fakhar remains one of the most explosive openers going around in limited-overs cricket and Sarfraz is backing the left-hander to do the business against South Africa.

“Fakhar Zaman is a very important player for us and his target is to play his natural game, which is quite similar to how David Warner plays or how Virender Sehwag or Shahid Afridi played in the past. I have told him that he needs to stay at the wicket more because his presence scares the bowlers,” the Pakistan skipper told reporters on the eve of the first ODI.

Against Faf du Plessis’ men, Sarfraz believes that batting first on the South African pitches will be key in deciding the final outcome of the series.

Fakhar will be key to Pakistan generating good starts in the series.

Fakhar will be key to Pakistan generating good starts in the series.

“It is necessary to get runs while batting in the first innings. If a touring team is able to do that, they win matches. Four of our five matches are day/night encounters. The teams prefer to bat first here, like India did (in 2018), as, it gets difficult to bat under lights,” the wicketkeeper batsman explained.

With the ICC World Cup set to take place in a few months in England, the Pakistan captain is hoping to try out a variety of combinations in the five matches.

“We have to identify our strengths ahead of the World Cup for which we will be trying different combinations in this series and the one against Australia,” he stated.

While his side were unstoppable in the Test series against Pakistan, South Africa skipper Faf du Plessis believes the visitors will be a completely different beast in the ODIs.

“Pakistan is a very good one day side and probably they would be the first to say that from a performance point of view, their one-day team is much stronger. It will be a nice challenge for us,” said the Proteas skipper.

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SA v Pakistan ODIs: Babar Azam, Duanne Olivier and other key players

Waseem Ahmed 18/01/2019
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Babar Azam has been in scorching form of late.

After South Africa completed a 3-0 clean sweep over Pakistan in the Test series, the two teams will now turn their attentions to the limited-overs clash.

The limited-overs leg of Pakistan’s tour of South Africa will kick off with a five-match ODI series which promises to be an enticing battle.

As the two sides get ready to lock horns in the 50-over format, we take a look at three players from either side who could prove to be key in the series.

SOUTH AFRICA

Reeza Hendricks

The opening batsman will be tasked with getting the hosts off to some explosive starts and his recent form suggests that he is more than capable of performing it with distinction.

The 29-year-old was in scorching form during the inaugural Mzansi Super League T20 where he finished as the joint second-highest run-scorer. Representing Jozi Stars in the league, Hendricks smashed 412 runs from 10 innings at an average of nearly 59 and a strike-rate above 142.

He can clear the boundary ropes with ease if he gets going at the top for South Africa.

Hendricks can give Proteas the explosive starts.

Hendricks can give the Proteas some explosive starts.

Duanne Olivier

Pakistan will already be sick of the sight of Olivier after his performances in the Test series. Called up only as fast-bowling cover initially, Olivier created an instant impact by picking up 24 wickets in the three matches.

His short-pitched bowling had Pakistan’s batsmen in all sorts of bother and his wicket tally is only the second highest ever recorded by a South African bowler in a single series.

Olivier is now in line to make his ODI debut after Dale Steyn was handed a rest and he will be itching to continue his stranglehold over Pakistan’s batsmen.

Olivier had Pakistan's number in the Test series.

Olivier had Pakistan’s number in the Test series.

Heinrich Klaasen

With Quinton de Kock being rested for the first two ODIs, it will be Klaasen who takes the wicketkeeping gloves for the Proteas. The 27-year-old only made his South Africa debut last year in the series against India and gave an excellent account of himself with some match-winning knocks.

He can be quite effective with his unorthodox shot making against the spinners and that could come in handy against a Pakistan attack which will comprise of Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim.

Klaasen can unsettle Pakistan's spinners.

Klaasen can unsettle Pakistan’s spinners.

PAKISTAN

Babar Azam

There are very few batsmen in the world currently who are in better form than Babar when it comes to limited-overs cricket.

The 24-year-old has been on a sensational run in both ODIs and T20s and recently broke Virat Kohli’s record to become the fastest batsman to bring up 1,000 runs in the 20-over format.

One of Pakistan’s better batsmen in the preceding Test series, Babar will be hoping to pick up the same form he showed in the limited-overs clashes against New Zealand in the UAE.

Babar Azam has been in scorching form of late.

Babar Azam has been in scorching form of late.

Shaheen Afridi

It is hard to believe that Afridi is still only 18 given the maturity he has shown with his bowling on the international stage over the past few months.

The left-armed pacer’s stock continues to rise following his man-of-the-series display in the ODIs against New Zealand in UAE and he has now done the business in the Test format too as evidenced by his nine wickets in the two recent appearances against South Africa.

In just six ODIs so far, Afridi is averaging just a shade under 17 with 13 scalps to his name and he will be eager to add to that tally in the coming series.

Afridi's rise has been meteoric.

Afridi’s rise has been meteoric.

Imam-ul-Haq

He has had to deal with accusations of nepotism ever since he broke onto the big stage but make no mistake, Imam is in the Pakistan squad on merit alone.

His Test career might be yet to fully take off but when it comes to ODIs, the left-handed opener is one of the most exciting young batsmen around currently.

With four international tons to his name in just 16 ODIs at an average of exactly 63, Imam will be key to Pakistan’s hopes of toppling the formidable Proteas in their own backyard.

Imam's ODI record so far is phenomenal.

Imam’s ODI record so far is phenomenal.

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