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Wounded Pakistan faces tough South African challenge

Zaman, Junaid set to play, with rain again expected to have a say in Edgbaston fixture
Morne Morkel made a relatively successful return to the South African ODI side with match figures of 1 for 31

Group B: South Africa v Pakistan
Date: Wednesday, 7 June 2017
Venue: Edgbaston, Birmingham

HEAD-T0-HEAD
72 matches; South Africa 47 wins; Pakistan 24 wins; no result 1



THE FORM
It’s the clash of the sides who are at the extremes in the tournament. South Africa is No. 1 in the ODI rankings. Pakistan is  No. 8, and only just qualified for the tournament.

That in itself suggests who the favourite is for Wednesday’s clash. South Africa comes into the game knowing a victory could seal its spot in the knockouts. It began its campaign with a victory over Sri Lanka, when it managed to overcome all the challenging phases to complete a comfortable win.

On the other hand, Pakistan has quite a lot of negative vibes around its campaign after losing to arch-rivals India in its first match. More than the defeat, it was the manner of the loss that disappointed. The bowlers hardly looked threatening, the fielding was ordinary and the batsmen couldn't dig in. The team is now left with the tough job of picking itself up for another big game, against an equally tough opponent.

But there’s no reason why Pakistan can’t lift its game. It did that the previous time the two sides met – at the World Cup 2015 in Auckland when the bowlers delivered a brilliant win. Pakistan’s followers would be hoping that their side can produce an encore. A victory here will not only keep the side alive, but also make Group B so much more interesting.


THE CONDITIONS
This, unfortunately, isn’t looking too promising, as has been the case over the last few days. There is possibility of rain on Wednesday evening, which could mar the second half of the game.

The previous two games at the venue were also affected by rain, with one of them, Australia v New Zealand, ending without a result.

It’s also the second and last day-night game of the tournament; the first day-night game, Australia v Bangladesh on Monday, was ended prematurely by inclement weather and ended four overs shy of Australia scoring an easy win.

But if rain does stay away, the pitch should produce some runs. In the two games here, New Zealand made 291 in 45 overs and India 319 in 48, but a used pitch could also bring in spinners. 

THE MATCH-UP
Mohammad Amir v Hashim Amla
If Pakistan is to have a chance in the game, it has to get past this man, Hashim Amla. He makes runs without fuss, dismantling the opposition with class and elegance. He is in great form as well – as he almost always is – beginning the tournament with a record 25th ODI century.

To stop Amla, Pakistan will look to Amir. The left-arm pacer was the only bowler to threaten India, although he went wicketless. Amir is now the spearhead of the attack in Wahab Riaz’s absence, and the onus of giving an early breakthrough lies on his shoulders.



THE WILDCARDS

South Africa: JP Duminy
Duminy had a quiet build-up to the tournament, but started it with a crucial cameo in the first game. South Africa was losing momentum in the death overs until Duminy played an underrated beauty, shifting the momentum. On a pitch that could help spinners, his off-spin could come in handy too.

Pakistan: Shadab Khan
Shadab is just 18 years old and four ODIs into his career, but there is already an air of expectation around him from Pakistan cricket followers after a good tour of the West Indies. With lovely flight and a well-disguised wrong-un, Shadab is a classical leg-spinner who stays with the modern times with subtle variations.

Shadab bowled reasonably well against India and could be a threat if the pitch offers him more. For it’s no secret that South Africa does not exactly enjoy playing spin, particularly leg spin.

WATCH OUT FOR:
Quinton de Kock

“They normally score at a strike-rate of 100 without even trying,” said AB de Villiers of South Africa’s openers after the previous game. While one of the openers, Amla, made it big, de Kock managed only a subdued 23. He’ll be itching to break free, so watch out Pakistan!

Teams:
South Africa
(from): Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), Jean-Paul Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Dwaine Pretorius, Keshav Maharaj, Farhaan Behardien, Morne Morkel.

Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik, Junaid Khan, Fakhar Zaman.

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Standings

Group A

Pos Team P NRR Pts
1 England 3 +1.045 6
2 Bangladesh 3 +0.000 3
3 Australia 3 -0.992 2
4 New Zealand 3 -1.058 1

Group B

Pos Team P NRR Pts
1 India 3 +1.370 4
2 Pakistan 3 -0.680 4
3 South Africa 3 +0.167 2
4 Sri Lanka 3 -0.798 2

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