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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ABD hoping to boost return of international cricket to Pakistan with PSL appearance

Waseem Ahmed 17/01/2019
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ABD will turn out for Lahore Qalandars in PSL 4.

Star batsman AB de Villiers is hoping to show the world that is it safe to play cricket in Pakistan after giving the green light to play two Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches in the country in the upcoming edition.

The South African, who is due to represent Lahore Qalandars in the league, delighted cricket fans in the country by recently making himself available to play the franchise’s two matches scheduled to be held in Pakistan on March 9 and 10.

International cricket has been at a standstill in Pakistan ever since the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009. With his commitment towards the Pakistan leg of the tournament, de Villiers is set to become one of the most high-profile international names to play in the country in recent years.

Speaking to BBC Sport, the former Proteas international revealed that he is hoping to create a massive impact by lending his presence to the two back to back clashes which will take place at the Gaddafi stadium in Lahore.

“I felt that I had this opportunity to maybe make an impact to help international cricket return to Pakistan,” the star batsman said.

“I was reluctant to go a few years back, when we were all a bit worried, but I feel the time is right to go back there.

“I’m hoping to go there and have some fun and show the whole world that Pakistan is safe to travel to again.”

The South African had shocked the cricket world earlier this year by announcing his premature retirement from international cricket. While the prospect of lifting a maiden World Cup with the Proteas in England this summer is an enticing one, de Villiers feels his decision to retire is the correct call.

“I feel I’ve made the right decision to retire,” he stated.

“If they do approach me – and I don’t think that will happen – we’ll have a conversation and I’m pretty sure that I will be staying over here and supporting the team.”

The fourth edition of the PSL gets underway in the UAE on February 14 with as many as eight matches set to take place on Pakistan soil this time around.

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