DURBAN: After slipping to a five-wicket loss in the first One-day International against Pakistan, South Africa will be desperate to draw level in Durban on Tuesday and prevent the deficit from becoming even steeper in the five-match series.
South Africa lost just two wickets in the series opener at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth, but still couldn’t breach the 300-run mark, ending the innings at 266-2. It was a target that senior Pakistan batsman Mohammad Hafeez said his side were always confident of chasing, given it was ‘below par’.
South Africa’s top-order batsmen will want to up their scoring-rate in Durban, not just to give their bowlers something to defend, but also to gain a psychological advantage against Pakistan.
To do that, they will be reliant on the experienced duo of Hashim Amla and Faf du Plessis, especially in the absence of the rested Quinton de Kock and the injured J.P. Duminy.
The in-form Rassie van der Dussen, who scored a 101-ball 93 in his debut ODI, will also hope to play a big role once again at Kingsmead.
South Africa will also be buoyed by the performance of their bowlers, who pushed Pakistan to the final over in a relatively small chase. Duanne Olivier, the standout star from the Tests, returned two wickets in the first ODI, albeit for 73 runs. If he can hit the straps again along with the likes of Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir Pakistan will be troubled.
That said, the visitors will be delighted with their victory in Port Elizabeth. All of Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam and Hafeez came good with the bat, and they will hope for more of the same in Durban.
As for the bowlers, the visitors would have been happy to keep South Africa to a low score, but will hope for more end-product in the coming games. In the first ODI, they used seven different bowlers but could pick up just two wickets. A lot will depend on Hasan Ali and Shadab Khan — Pakistan’s only wicket-takers in Port Elizabeth.
With Miller only getting 12 balls out in the middle and the likes of du Plessis, Heinrich Klaasen, Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius unused, South Africa’s struggles to put the foot on the gas in the series opener through their innings raised eyebrows just a few months out from the 2019 World Cup in England.
But Amla, who carded his 27th ODI century, explained after the match that run-scoring was not easy.
“It was a tough wicket to bat on,” he said. “I know we only lost two wickets, but it was tough to get the ball away. Their spinners bowled pretty decently as well. We tried to score and unfortunately we just couldn’t get the acceleration we needed.”
Amla was impressed by both van der Dussen and Hendricks.
“Rassie batted exceptionally well. Somebody coming in on debut is always going to have those added nerves. It takes about 20 or 30 balls for you to get the pace of the wicket and find some sort of rhythm. He managed to get through that and then looked really good,” he said.
“Reeza has had a few games under his belt and he’s batted really well. He’s calm and composed and we know he is a wonderful player. Guys like him and Rassie will only get better because the more you play the more you understand your own game.
“After 10 overs I think both teams were level with about 40-odd, so it wasn’t that free-flowing wicket up front.
“We always know that coming to PE [Port Elizabeth] the wicket is a bit slower and it is not a high-scoring game. 260 is usually a defendable total, but credit Pakistan ... they played well.”
The forecast in Durban suggests optimal playing conditions on match-day. Teams batting first have had more success at Kingsmead over the years. In the last ODI at Kingsmead, two spinners, India’s Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, claimed five scalps between them. It suggests the surface might have something in it for the slow bowlers.
SOUTH AFRICA: Hashim Amla, Reeza Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Faf du Plessis (captain), Heinrich Klaasen, Dane Paterson, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Duanne Olivier, Tabraiz Shamsi, Aiden Markram.
Pakistan: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Usman Khan Shinwari, Mohammad Amir, Shan Masood, Hussain Talat, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
Umpires: Bongani Jele (South Africa) and Paul Reiffel (Australia).
TV umpire: Gregory Brathwaite (West Indies).
Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka).
Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2019