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06 March 201513:17 By Anand Vasu, Auckland

Pakistan v South Africa Preview, Match 29, Auckland

South Africa has excelled on all counts, while Misbah’s side will look to maintain winning momentum

Pakistan v South Africa Preview, Match 29, Auckland - Cricket News

The question before teams now isn’t so much how to beat South Africa, but how to stop AB de Villiers.

On the back of grey skies and a persistent drizzle, an unstoppable force breezed into Auckland ahead of the weekend. AB de Villiers, in red-hot form, has refused to be denied thus far in South Africa’s campaign and has been the beating heart of the run-making in a World Cup that has seen big scores.

His visceral hitting, both traditional and innovative, has lit up stadia and driven bowlers to despair. The question before teams now isn’t so much how to beat South Africa, but how to stop de Villiers.

Certainly, de Villiers is not alone in his success. Hashim Amla is up to his usual tricks, scoring comfortably at better than a run-a-ball without ever seeming to break a sweat or play a shot in anger. David Miller and Rilee Rossouw have muscled the ball around, and Quinton de Kock is due.

If South Africa’s batting has become a major factor, the bowling has done so well that someone such as Vernon Philander has been forced to sit out. Dale Steyn lays down the early markers, Kyle Abbott has pace and energy, Morne Morkel brings bounce and Imran Tahir has mopped up wickets at every possible chance.

To this batting and bowling add South Africa’s razor-sharp fielding, and you have a team that is going to be very hard to beat. Certainly, the likes of New Zealand and Australia have the bowling attacks to beat anyone, and India will believe its batting can more than make up for shortcomings elsewhere. But, what of Pakistan, South Africa’s next opponent?

Pakistan has rediscovered its winning ways after a slow start. The batting came good as it put up 339 against UAE, after the bowlers held their nerve to defend 235 against Zimbabwe, for a thrilling 20-run win.

However, the line-up has come in for criticism from former players. After a disappointing tournament for Nasir Jamshed, Sarfraz Ahmed might get a look in or Younus Khan could return to the squad, especially with Haris Sohail struggling with an inflamed heel. Former players’ suggestions that Misbah-ul-Haq, the captain, do something out of the box was met with: “Should I open the batting with Irfan?” He also suggested that with Eden Park’s short straight boundaries, and the presence of Shahid Afridi, Yasir Shah, the legspinner, might spend a bit more time on the bench.

If Pakistan wins the South Africa clash, it will get an important boost to its quarterfinal hopes. Else, it could all come down to the final Pool B game against Ireland - which too has two wins so far but from three games compared to Pakistan's four - on Sunday.

If Pakistan is worried about missing some key players who brought stability to the line-up, it is not letting on. The team has managed to hang in there, and Misbah has done everything to keep the dream alive.

Teams (likely):

Pakistan: Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad, Younus Khan Sohaib Maqsood, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Umar Akmal (wk), Shahid Afridi, Wahab Riaz, Sohail Khan, Rahat Ali, Mohammad Irfan.

South Africa: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), David Miller, JP Duminy, Rilee Rossouw, Vernon Philander/Kyle Abbott, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir.

You can follow the build up to the game and the live scoring and match highlights for Pakistan v South Africa here in the ICC Match Centre.