Rankled by the stunning reverse at the hands of Afghanistan,
former champions Pakistan takes on a rampaging South Africa in a must win game
in the ICC Cricket World Cup at the M.A.Chidambaram Stadium here on Friday.
Having catapulted to the second spot in the points table with massive wins, South
Africans, on the other hand, are in red hot form, and would look to further consolidate
its position at the top.
With four big wins, after its ‘spinning’ loss at the hands of The Netherlands at
Dharamshala, the Proteas, having scored more than 1,500 runs in five matches,
will be keenly looking to carry forward the momentum and strengthen its chances
of making it to the knock-outs.
In contrast, the Asian heavyweights Pakistan, having suffered three successive
losses in five matches, can ill-afford to lose its remaining contests to fancy its
chances of making it to the semi-finals.
Pakistan needs to get its acts together, especially on the bowling front, with the
spinners should rise to the occasion in this all important contest on a pitch which
was expected to favour them..
The bowling attack appeared penetrative with ‘Mr Dependable’ left arm seamer
Shaheen Shah Afridi, though managed to give breakthroughs, was yet to hit his
peak form along with his new ball partner Haris Rauf.
But the concern was the performance of their much famed spin attack which is
yet to pull their weight, and the Chepauk pitch, with which they are quite used to,
provides yet another chance for them to rise to the occasion, putting behind
their rather forgettable outing against Afghanistan in this very ground a couple of
As skipper Babar Azam had himself conceded that the spinners, who had taken
just a few wickets in this edition, has not hit the right length and the leg spinners
Shadab Khan and Usma Mir, either bowled too full or too short and allowed the
Afghanistan to feast on them while chasing a huge total of 283 the other day.
The chances of return of left arm spinner Mohammed Nawaz, who missed the
last match, due to illness appeared bright. Nawaz, who has the ability to keep
the batsmen under check with a restricted line, was seen back at the training
session at the ground during the last two days.
According to Babar, who was in good touch with a couple of half centuries under
his belt, batting was not a concern with Abdullah Shafique and Imam-ul-Haq at the
top, among the runs.
Apart from Babar himself, Mohd Rizwan, despite a rare failure against Afghanistan,
has the much needed experience in turning the tables by anchoring the innings
and later exploding, along with Saud Shakeel, with Iftikhar Ahmed at the lower order
proving his big hitting prowess the other day, lending the much needed stability.
With the Chepauk pitch traditionally known to assist the spinners, Babar Azam will
look up to the spinners to bring the team’s campaign back on track against a team,
which has scores of four-300 plus, including a 400-plus, and has made winning
by huge margins, a habit.
Going by their current form, South Africa, though vulnerable against spin as seen
in its loss against the Dutch, goes into the contest as a clear favourite with scores
of 428, 311, 399 and 382–that included a big win against reigning champions England.
Playing his last World Cup, opener Quinton de-Kock is on a fairy tale run already
having scored three centuries and leads the batting chart with 407 runs and will be
keen to sustain his run.
The top and middle order is in ballistic form, with Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram,
Heinrich Klassen and David Miller, all among the runs in this edition and bowling was led
by speedsters Kasigo Rabada, Lungi Nigidi, Marco Jansen, who has also proved his batting
skills, Lizaad Williams and Gerald Coetzee, apart from spinner Keshav Maharaj.
Despite the Proteas clicking as a team and not having faced any serious challenge thus
far–save for the rare defeat against Netherlands–they will be facing a spin test against
the Pakistan, which is keen to get back on the winning ways, on the morrow.
It also remains to be seen whether its skipper Temba Bavuma, who missed the last outing
against Bangaldesh at Mumbai due to injury, and led by stand-in skipper Aiden Markram,
is fit and will return back to lead the side in this all important contest.
At present, an unbeaten India, South Africa and New Zealand with four wins each and
Australia (3 wins) were on the top of the points table in that order, followed by Pakistan
(ahead by net runrate) and Afghanistan (two wins) and Sri Lanka, England, Bangladesh
and Netherlands (all with one win each).
With all the teams having played five matches each, the quadrennial event enters the
middle phase and when it reaches the business end, the results of some of the matches
might turn the tables and equations might change on the road the semifinals.
The Teams (from) :
Imam-ul-Haq, Abdullah Shafique, Babar Azam (C), Mohammad Rizwan (WK), Saud
Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Usama Mir, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Hassan Ali,
Haris Rauf, Fakhar Zaman, Salman Ali Agha, Mohammed Nawaz, Mohd Wasim.
South Africa :
Quinton de Kock (WK), Reeza Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram (C),
Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Marco Jansen, Temba Bavuma, Gerald Coetzee, Kagiso
Rabada, Keshav Maharaj, Lizaad Williams, Lungi Nigidi, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz