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South Africa, Pakistan in must-win battle

Both sides have to overcome lack of experience in the ranks, and a loss will all but knock them out of the tournament

South Africa, Pakistan in must-win battle - Cricket News
Pakistan and South Africa will go head to head at the Edgbaston stadium on 10, June.
If you are a spectator, the beauty of the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 is that there’s no room for error for the teams. If you are a competitor, the cruelty of the tournament is that one slip up could make it very difficult to progress to the knock-out phase.  

For South Africa, who was at the receiving end of a robust batting performance from the Indian team, and Pakistan, who was shaded by West Indies in a low-scoring thriller, the banana peel awaits. It’s only a question of who will slip up when the two teams go head to head at Edgbaston on Monday (June 10). The team that loses this game will be left looking at permutations and combinations, hoping that one team in the group of four wins all its games and three others are left with a win each so that it comes down to net run rates.  

At the moment though, both South Africa and Pakistan must shy away from premature thoughts of net run rates and focus on finding a way to win the match ahead of them. Neither team was convincing in their first outing, and both will know exactly where they need to improve.  

For South Africa, the challenge is to overcome the absence of Jacques Kallis and Graeme Smith. While there is no shortage of talent in their group, the team did show a certain diffidence against India, the kind that is born out of a lack of experience of being in high-profile, pressure-cooker situations. At times when it needed to kick on with the bat, or pull things back with the ball, South Africa appeared to be indecisive. Where a Kallis or a Smith would have known exactly what to do to seize the moment, the younger players who have taken their spots let the game drift.  

If South Africa is missing nearly 19000 runs in Smith and Kallis, it is also severely hamstrung by the absence of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel. AB de Villiers, the captain, suggested that things were not looking up with respect to Steyn, but the team was understandably waiting till the last moment before taking a decision.  

“They're totally different teams,” said de Villiers, looking back at India and forward to Pakistan. “I think Pakistan obviously has got a world class spinner in Saeed Ajmal, and they're very different to India. India has a very, very strong batting line-up right throughout the order. They're strong with the batting end, where Pakistan has probably got a stronger bowling attacking end,” said de Villiers. “We played them in the recent past in South Africa, and in the warm up game here in England. We know them very well, and we're looking forward to the challenge.”  

Pakistan is also without experienced hands, although by choice, rather than injury problems. When it played West Indies, Misbah-ul-Haq, the oldest man playing in the Champions Trophy, could have been forgiven for feeling alone. The middle order would have worn a completely different look had a player such as Younis Khan been around to calm nerves. The decision to go with Shoaib Malik ahead of Shahid Afridi, who is a slightly different kind of allrounder, with an accent on bowling, is also beginning to look a bit chancy.  

But Pakistan, even with the personnel they have in England, is capable of taking down the best teams around. As is always the case, though, Pakistan’s greatest enemy is itself. Its propensity to self-destruct with the bat has already come to the fore in this tournament. A repeat performance will all but seal its exit.  

Teams: (from)  

Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Abdur Rehman, Asad Ali, Asad Shafiq, Ehsan Adil, Imran Farhat, Junaid Khan, Kamran Akmal (wk), Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Irfan, Nasir Jamshed, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Malik, Umar Amin, Wahab Riaz.  

South Africa: AB de Villiers (capt, wk), Hashim Amla, Alviro Petersen, Faf du Plessis, David Miller, JP Duminy, Colin Ingram, Farhaan Behardien, Robin Peterson, Ryan McLaren, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Rory Kleinveldt, Aaron Phangiso.

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