Big Picture – Can Pakistan get back on track?
As one campaign unravels, another gathers full steam. It’s a familiar theme for Pakistan and South Africa across much of ICC tournament history. While South Africa have often looked among the most formidable sides in the early stages of these tournaments, Pakistan stutter and stall until they’ve left themselves with no margin for error, and then they roar into life. This fixture, timed to coincide with that point of crossroads in the World Cup group stages, gives that narrative the extra thrust for South Africa to be that little bit warier, and Pakistan slightly more optimistic.
But South Africa are looking to make history at this World Cup, while Pakistan are in danger of being consigned to it. The ferocious brilliance of South Africa has combined with clinical effectiveness, lending that side a steel and ruthlessness they have often been accused of lacking. The team might always look a batter light with Marco Jansen in at seven, but with nearly all of the top six in such glistening form, no side bar Netherlands have been able to burrow their way deeper into that line-up until explosive damage has already been done.
The PCB itself appears to see the writing on the wall by issuing a bizarre statement urging fans to continue to support the team. Somewhat cynically, it indulged in a little self-preservation of its own, firmly pointing the finger at under-fire captain Babar and chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq for selecting the team.
While ignominy possibly awaits Pakistan, South Africa eye glory. The two sides in resplendent green could not look more different from each other at present.
Pakistan LLLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa WWLWW
In the spotlight – Babar Azam and Marco Jansen
When everyone knows – as they do about Imam-ul-Haq – you’ve got a problem against the short ball, facing 209cm Marco Jansen does not fill you with joy. A cheat code of a cricketer, the ultimate two-in-one player has had a sparkling World Cup, taking two wickets in each of his five games while keeping the economy rate under check. His ability to swing the new ball and get extra bounce at will belie the high pace and consistency of his bowling, and Pakistan are low on confidence with the bat. If all that wasn’t enough, Jansen is among the most lethal lower-order hitters at the death, as his mullering of England will bear witness to.
Team news – Bavuma, Fakhar set to return
Fakhar Zaman has been passed fit, and if he does play, Imam-ul-Haq is likeliest to make way. Perhaps more importantly, Hasan Ali has been ruled out with fever, likely putting Mohammad Wasim Jnr in contention.
Pakistan: (likely) 1 Abdullah Shafique, 2 Imam-ul-Haq/Fakhar Zaman, 3 Babar Azam (capt), 4 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 5 Saud Shakeel, 6 Iftikhar Ahmed, 7 Shadab Khan, 8 Usama Mir, 9 Mohammad Wasim Jnr, 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 11 Haris Rauf
South Africa’s main conundrum surrounded what to do about captain Temba Bavuma, with Reeza Hendricks doing a stellar job as replacement during his enforced absence. But Bavuma will come back in and lead the side, and South Africa have also opted for extra spin, with Keshav Maharaj replacing Gerald Coetzee.
South Africa: (likely) 1 Temba Bavuma (capt), 2 Quinton de Kock (wk), 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 Heinrich Klaasen, 6 David Miller, 7 Marco Jansen, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Tabraiz Shamsi, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Lungi Ngidi/Lizaad Williams
Pitch and conditions
Stats and trivia
- Hasan Ali and Shaheen Shah Afridi are one and four wickets away respectively from becoming the 21st and 22nd Pakistan bowlers to reach 100 ODI wickets
- While South Africa have a 3-2 lead against Pakistan in ODI World Cups, their last win came in 1999
- Quinton de Kock is one century away from tying AB de Villers for most World Cup hundreds for South Africa (4)
“I think we have underperformed, in all three matches. We haven’t underperformed this way before. We know that we are not playing good cricket. But our team has bounced back from this situation before and, hopefully, we will come out of this situation.”
Shadab Khan draws hope from history as he admits Pakistan’s recent failings
Danyal Rasool is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent. @Danny61000