Pakistan were annihilated in the Test series. They could not tackle the lateral movement produced on the South African wickets. In their defence, Duanne Olivier was unplayable, that he sniped absolute jaffa of a delivery every now and then. His fellow pacers – Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, and Vernon Philander – bowled well in tandem and caught the Pakistani batters in trance.
Enter ODI series and we see a different Pakistan side. They were brimming with confidence despite the embarrassment they faced in the Test series. Let’s not overlook the fact that they lifted the 2017 Champions Trophy, defeating a strong Indian side in the final.
Although Pakistan eventually lost the ODIs 3-2, they put up good fight. They are lethal when they don coloured clothing.
To make matters more interesting, Pakistan rank No. 1 in ICC T20I rankings, while South Africa stutter at No. 5. We may as well see Pakistan avenge the Test and ODI losses in the shortest and fastest format of the game.
The Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg is a Bermuda Triangle for bowlers. The pitch offers very little for them. The average scores in the first and second innings read 167 and 142 respectively. The highest total chased here is 260 for 6 by Sri Lanka against Kenya.
Babar Azam sits atop the table for ICC T20I Rankings for batters. He is the only player who averages over 50 in the format. He will open the batting with Fakhar Zaman who ranks 5th in the list. While Babar has a sound technique, Fakhar uses his blade to a devastating effect.
With Babar opening the batting, Mohammad Hafeez is likely to bat at No. 3. He is a veteran of 89 T20Is, and has scored as many as 1,908 runs and taken 54 wickets.
South Africa’s top order boasts of Quinton de Kock, Reeza Hendrick, and Faf du Plessis. All three have been among runs. It will be an uphill task for the Pakistan bowlers to make early inroads.
The captain Shoaib Malik will have to steady the ship in the middle overs. He is the most experienced T20I player and is at No. 3 in the list of most runs in the format.
Pakistan will have to choose two among Sahibzada Farhan, Asif Ali, Mohammad Rizwan, and Hussain Talat for the middle-order. They have played a mere 40 matches between them. The onus will be on Malik to anchor the innings till death overs.
South Africa, on the other hand, have a strong middle-order batters in David Miller, Rassie van der Dussen, and Heinrich Klaasen.
We saw the carnage laid by van de Dussen in the ODIs. He is not one of those who succumbs to pressure. Meanwhile, Miller and Klaasen have not been able to provide impetus. This is a different format, though. Both will get to express themselves better.
Pakistan have Shadab Khan and Imad Wasim to scale up the run rate in death overs. However, their area of expertise is bowling. While Shadab ranks No. 2, Wasim has shot up to No. 8 due to his recent performances.
South Africa have three options in Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, and Willem Mulder.
Phehlukwayo was the highest wicket-taker for South Africa in ODIs. He is as spectacular with the bat as he is with the ball. His 69* in the second ODI is evidence to the fact.
While Mulder is yet to debut in T20Is, Morris is South Africa’s T20 specialist. On his day, he can reduce any bowling attack to a punching bag.
Faheem Ashraf has been Pakistan’s top T20I bowler, taking 21 wickets at a staggering average of 19.47. He will be partnered by Usman-Khan Shinwari, Shaheen Afridi, and Mohammad Amir. With the pace attack so heavy, Pakistan will have a selection headache.
South Africa, on the other hand, have Junior Dala, Lutho Sipamla, and Beuran Hendricks in the pace department. They have opted for only one spinner in Tabraiz Shamsi, who took 4 wickets in 2 ODIs against Pakistan.
Probable XI for Pakistan: Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Sahibzada Farhan, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali
Probable XI for South Africa: Quinton de Kock (wk), Reeza Hendricks, Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Heinrich Klaasen, Chris Morris, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shami, Junior Dala, Beuran Hendricks
I have opted for a fantasy cricket team on the basis of players’ impact, recent performances, and credit points.
What will be your combination?
My XI: Quinton de Kock, Babar Azam (c), Fakhar Zaman, Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Andile Phehlukwayo (vc), Faheem Ashraf, Beuran Hendricks, Tabraiz Shamsi