Mohammad Rizwan in spotlight for Pakistan ahead of South Africa ODI series decider

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History is against Pakistan at Newlands.

There has been little to choose between the two sides so far as South Africa and Pakistan get ready to do battle in the fifth and final ODI of the series at Cape Town on Wednesday.

The two teams are locked at 2-2, with Pakistan’s comprehensive eight-wicket win in the fourth ODI at the Wanderers levelling matters.

With the series on the line for both teams, we take a look at the key talking points heading into the Newlands decider.

HOSTS BANK ON IMPRESSIVE SERIES DECIDER TRACK RECORD

While their defeat in the fourth ODI was a demoralising one, the Proteas can take some comfort from their recent track record in series deciders.

South Africa’s last loss in an ODI series decider came all the way back in mid-2015 when they went down by nine wickets to Bangladesh in Chittagong. Since then, Faf du Plessis and his men have won five on the bounce against New Zealand (twice), India, England and Australia.

Preserving this incredible run will be the top priority for the hosts as they look to win their fourth ODI bilateral series on the trot. Since losing the series to India at home by 1-5 at the start of last year, South Africa have beaten Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe in the ODI format and they will want to keep that winning momentum going ahead of the 2019 World Cup in England.

The hosts are aiming for a sixth straight win in series deciders.

The hosts are aiming for a sixth straight win in series deciders.

HISTORY AGAINST PAKISTAN AT NEWLANDS

As Pakistan aim for a series-clinching win, they will know that their track record at Newlands is not one that inspires confidence. In seven ODIs at the picturesque venue in Cape Town, the Men in Green have tasted defeats on six occasions.

Their sole victory at Newlands came in their last appearance at the venue on November 2013 when they beat the hosts by 23 runs. That win broke a run of six successive losses at the venue for Pakistan and it is what the tourists will aim to repeat when they take to the field on Wednesday.

Apart from a chance of improving on their poor record at the ground, Pakistan have an opportunity to capture their second consecutive ODI series triumph on South African soil. The visitors had prevailed by 2-1 in the three-match series in 2013-14 but things have changed considerably since.

Since that series loss to Pakistan in 2013-14, the Proteas have only been beaten once at home and that came against India last year. Pakistan will be looking to emulate their neighbouring arch-rivals and do the same at Newlands.

Pakistan will look to erase their Newland miseries.

Pakistan will look to erase their Newland miseries.

CHANCE FOR MOHAMMAD RIZWAN TO MAKE HIS MARK

The fifth ODI will present another opportunity to Mohammad Rizwan to stake his claim for a place in the World Cup squad. The four-match suspension handed to skipper Sarfraz Ahmed for his racially charged taunt to South Africa all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo has come as a boon for the wicketkeeper-batsman whose international career had stagnated following his debut in 2015.

The 26-year-old was recently handed a recall to the Pakistan ODI setup and played in the fourth ODI in the absence of Sarfraz. He did not get a chance to create an impact with the side winning comfortably but he will get another chance to audition for the wicketkeeper’s role on Wednesday.

Rizwan’s previous ODI track record is nothing to shout home about but his List A numbers are impressive with over 4,000 runs in 120 matches at an average of nearly 50. Sarfraz has struggled for form of late with the bat and if Rizwan can grab his opportunity with both hands in the decider and the T20 series to follow, it could give the Pakistan selectors something to chew on in the run-up the World Cup.

Another chance for Rizwan to stake his claim.

Another chance for Rizwan to stake his claim.

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A maiden Test call up for Chamika Karunaratne (r).

Sri Lanka have added uncapped pacer Chamika Karunaratne to the squad ahead of the second Test against Australia as a replacement for the injured Lahiru Kumara.

The tourists are grappling with a spate of injuries in the fast-bowling department which has seen three bowlers in Kumara, Nuwan Pradeep and Dushmantha Chameera ruled out of the series.

While Kumara and Pradeep injured their hamstrings, Chameera picked up an ankle injury in the first Test against Australia at Brisbane.

Chameera is set to return home along with Kumara while Sri Lanka Cricket have stated that Karunaratne will join the squad in due course ahead of the second Test.

Sri Lanka had already drafted left-arm pacer Vishwa Fernando to the squad last week after the news of Kumara’s injury had emerged.

22-year-old Karunaratne, meanwhile, has played a total of 29 first-class matches over the course of his career since making his debut in 2015. The pacer has picked up a total of 59 wickets in these games with an average of just over 34.

Karunaratne had represented Sri Lanka in the recent ACC (Asian Cricket Council) Emerging Nations Cup in December.

Sri Lanka currently trail the two-match series 0-1 after tasting a defeat by an innings and 40 runs in the first Test at the Gabba. The second and final Test between the two sides will get underway at the Manuka Oval in Canberra on February 1.

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Kohli backs Pandya to emerge as a stronger cricketer from television show controversy

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Virat Kohli (l) and Hardik Pandya (r).

India skipper Virat Kohli is hoping that the recent controversy surrounding Hardik Pandya will help the all-rounder emerge as a better cricketer.

Pandya caused a flutter with his controversial remarks on a television show recently following which he was suspended with immediate effect by the BCCI and the Committee of Administrators (CoA).

The all-rounder was sent back home from the tour of Australia along with KL Rahul with an inquiry opened against the duo. It was only a few days ago that the BCCI provisionally lifted the players’ suspensions and made them available for selection again.

Following the lifting of the suspension, Pandya flew straight to New Zealand to join the India squad and picked up two wickets on his return in the third ODI to help the visitors clinch the five-match series with an unassailable 3-0 lead.

Speaking after India’s seven-wicket win at Mount Maunganui, Kohli hoped the controversy will do Pandya a world of good and help him scale new heights.

“In life, there are only two ways to deal with a situation like that. Either you hit rock bottom or you can learn from the situation and see it as a motivation to make things right,” Kohli was quoted as saying by the Hindu.

“For a cricketer, there is nothing more dear than game. You put all your energy in the game, if you respect the game, the game will respect you back. There is no rocket science,” he added.

Pandya picked up two wickets on his return to the ODI side.

Pandya picked up two wickets on his return to the ODI side.

Kohli had condemned the comments made by the two players prior to the start of the ODI series against Australia but he has urged the duo to keep a positive attitude amidst the controversy.

“You don’t need do anything extra (in a situation like Pandya’s). Whoever comes out of it positive, his career can scale new heights, like we have seen with many cricketers in the past,” he said.

“I hope he (Pandya) goes on that right path and emerges as a better cricketer and I think he can do that.”

Kohli’s involvement in the ODI series came to an end with Monday’s clash with the India skipper now set to return home for a well deserved break from international cricket. Pandya, meanwhile, will be a part of the squad for the two remaining ODIs.

The fourth ODI between the two sides takes place at Seddon Park in Hamilton on Thursday.

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