Pakistan or South Africa — who will keep the World Cup dream alive?

Updated June 23, 2019

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Popular opinion among reporters is that Shoaib Malik and Hasan Ali are the favourites to be dropped. —Reuters/File
Popular opinion among reporters is that Shoaib Malik and Hasan Ali are the favourites to be dropped. —Reuters/File

Here's the bad news: both Pakistan and South Africa, both talented in their flawed ways, have been misfiring at all cylinders in World Cup 2019. The good news is that one of them will find some relief today when they take on each other at Lord’s in London.

For South Africa, the relief would be mere consolation as the exit door out of the tournament has a bigger opening for them than Pakistan. They have three points from the first six games and even if they win all three of their remaining fixtures, a miracle of miracles will be needed for them to progress to the semi-finals.

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It’s not as if Pakistan progressing would be a less of a miracle but them having played a game less but holding as many points as South Africa gives them marginally better hope. Not that it is a major advantage, thanks to the offsetting nature of their horrible net run rate (-1.933).

While the two teams’ situation seems similar, the factors contributing to their plight are anything but. The Proteas are missing several key players, including the lethal Dale Steyn, due to an injury.

Pakistan, on the other hand, have no such excuses to hide behind. They are where they are due to their own sheer incompetence. Plenty has been said about what they’re lacking and doing wrong. There is no point opening that can of worms anymore.

Head to head

South Africa have dominated Pakistan in ODI cricket, winning 50 of their 78 matches. Pakistan only have 27 victories in this matchup with one ending in a no result.

The Africans’ winning percentage against Pakistan in World Cups is even higher at 75 per cent. They’ve won three of their four meetings in the 50-over event, with Pakistan’s sole win coming at the last tournament in 2015.

South Africa also were Pakistan’s first ODI assignment of 2019. Though it was a close series that was decided in the final game, South Africa eventually edged it 3-2.

Team news

It would be surprising if South Africa do not stick with the same line-up that almost defeated table toppers New Zealand recently.

It would also be surprising if Pakistan do stick with the same line-up that was embarrassed by India. Popular opinion among reporters is that Shoaib Malik and Hasan Ali are the favourites to be dropped. In their stead, Haris Sohail and one of Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Hasnain are expected to be inducted.

Prediction

The only other team more mentally fragile than Pakistan is South Africa. The Proteas have a long tradition of coming up short at crucial stages of major ICC tournaments. Expect the trend to hold and the Africans to come up short.