6 things Pakistan must do to win against South Africa

Published March 6, 2015
Pakistan will have to find their right XI now, more than ever.—AFP
Pakistan will have to find their right XI now, more than ever.—AFP

1. Toss — prefer to bat second

Out of the 21 day/night matches played at Eden Park, 14 have been won by the side batting second.

The low-scoring game between New Zealand and Australia in February demonstrates how a seasoned bowling clan can seal you victories.

Thanks to Trent Boult and Daniel Vettori, Australia were confined to a meagre 151, a score that New Zealand’s tumbling batting lineup had trouble chasing. In the end, it was a bowlers’ contest with Mitchell Starc and Trent Boult earning 5 and 6 wickets respectively.

Considering the pitch, it would be a wise call to put the opponent to bat and restrict them within 200 – which is quite within Pakistan’s grip. However, it would be inept to discount Pakistan’s uniform incapability to chase.

Either way, the toss will play a decisive role tomorrow, as the rain clouds are expected for a visit.

2. Play the right XI

Popular opinion proposes Sarfraz Ahmed’s inclusion at the cost of Nasir Jamshed. Sarfraz being unfairly benched for the initial four games has brought forward many speculations, mainly because of opener Nasir Jamshed’s repeated shortcomings at justifying his place.

That said, playing a high-priority game with no World Cup practice yet could enforce on Sarfraz an extra grain of pressure.

On the other hand, Mohammad Irfan’s fitness is currently a big concern, so bringing in Yasir Shah appears like the probable option. Rahat Ali, Wahab Riaz with support from Shahid Afridi – who is yet to spark things up – could fetch Pakistan those pivotal wickets early in the innings.

Team management, although, should minimise disturbing the winning stew other than these two fundamental changes.

Skipper, do the right thing.

3. Put the tiger in 'cornered tigers'

As apparent in the initial games, the Pakistani clan often enters the arena with a fear of underperforming that gradually overwhelms them with each setback on the field, resulting in a loss which is often as colossal morale-wise as stats-wise.

While there are numerous comparisons being made to the 1992 saga, one aspect that clearly contrasts this team from that of 1992 is vigour.

The aggression that the ‘cornered tigers’ brought to the field and modeled in each area of their game is far from visible in this side. If not from the Khan XI, Pakistan could learn a thing or two from South Africa, India, and even Ireland for that matter; who have demonstrated resilience, dynamism and tenacity, regardless of what the scoreboard looks like.

No matter how talented the playing XI is, your statistical milestones or techniques are not going to win you matches if you lack fortitude.

Team Pakistan, now would be an apt time to take notes.

4. Fielding — drop less and stop more, please

Fielding has never been Pakistan’s best virtue. Dropped catches, missed run-outs, stoppable boundaries and primarily, missed stumpings could all have been avoided if Pakistan were a tad better at pressure-management.

One area’s weakness cannot be entirely offset by the stronger area’s strength, unless a team displays immaculate fielding skills.

For instance, two weeks ago, a sluggish Indian bowling unit rattled out South Africa’s entire top order through stunning fielding. On paper, it seemed as if the Proteas would chase 308 in no time. However, India made sure they capitalised on every sloppy hit.

Pakistan should not undermine the significance of an attacking fielding unit, especially against a side whose skipper has fallen victim to run-outs/catches in all of his ODI games since 2013.

5. Bowling — do it with a plan

Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis and AB deVilliers, each with 60+ averages in 4 games, are names powerful enough to put any bowler on pins and needles. With a fastest ODI ton to his name, AB deVilliers is currently at his absolute finest, along with Hashim Amla who has the most runs (257) for South Africa so far.

Moreover, with 13 fours and 11 sixes, David Miller averages 113 in the tournament so far, posing another threat to Pakistan. In addition, JP Duminy and Rilee Rossouw average almost 122 in their two games, making the South African batting order appear more menacing with each game.

Sadly for Pakistan, there aren’t any Ajmals and Junaids around this time to cling hopes to, only an unfledged tribe of bowlers skilled enough to shift a game. But if it is possible for a bowling clan like India’s to do South Africa in, there is no reason Pakistan cannot.

6. Batting — play with cautious aggression

Imran Tahir – one of South Africa’s most attacking bowlers lately – has grabbed nine wickets in his four games, averaging 19. On the other hand, Kyle Abbott has been the most economical so far, with six in two, alongside Morne Morkel, who has nine in four. Even though Dale Steyn is yet to get things rolling, his statistics cannot outweigh the fear of his deadly out-swingers.

Our batsmen must be at the top of their game in terms of running and pacing the innings; sticking out there and rotating the strike. Futile attempts at pulls and lofty shots could cost Pakistan the game, though that does not denote we continue to bat with a defensive approach and frivol away overs.

It will all boil down to the right playing XI and how much grit they display.

Good luck, Pakistan!



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