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Misbah must play his best cards in second ODI

March 14, 2013

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Pakistan needs a spark to set the team alight. They have to come out and surprise South Africa with something different, maybe an innovation in batting order, in selection or just in their attitude. -Photo by AFP

Match: South Africa v Pakistan, 2nd ODI (5-match series)

Series: South Africa lead 1 – 0

Venue: SuperSport Park, Centurion, South Africa.

Date & Time: 15th March, 2013, 17:30 PST / 12:30 GMT

Overall Rivalry: Dominance; South Africa 39 wins, Pakistan 18 wins

Weather Report: Another warm day in Centurion is expected with a high of 28C and winds of less than 5 km/h.

Ground Report:  Pakistan returns to SuperSport Park for the third time on this tour. It is the only venue where they have managed to beat the South Africans this summer when they sailed to a 95-run win in the one off T20 international. Once again, it is expected to be a high-scoring game on a flat deck and a fast outfield.

Game On: A two-month-long tour that was always going to be tough for the visitors is now in its final fourth. After spending a month and a half in South Africa, Pakistani batsmen are still looking to find their feet, their captain, still trying to find his best XI.

The Pakistani batting order was rumoured to be under some dispute within its ranks. However, the batting dilemma seems to be deeper than just its order, it might be down to its selection. Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq and Misbah-ul-Haq crowd the middle order; their career strike rates are agonisingly low for modern-day cricket at 75.54, 69.46 and 73.67 respectively.

A batting line-up that has been prone to collapse needs an anchor but having so many anchors has often put the Pakistani ship to a halt in the middle of an innings.

The lower middle-order has the experience in the power hitting of Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal and Shahid Afridi but they have scored only one half-century amongst them in over 16 months.

Umar Akmal did not find a spot in the first ODI while he is ranked as the 15th best batsmen in the world and the only Pakistani to be among the top 25. With an average almost touching 38 and a strike rate of over 84 he has surprisingly not been an automatic selection.

Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan and Umar Gul were a part of the original squad that travelled across the equator and were tipped as a potentially potent fast bowling force that had performed well in a prior tour to India. Oddly, the trio has only appeared in one game together, the only one that has resulted in a Pakistani win.  On the fast and bouncy pitches of South Africa, the Pakistani team management seems to have missed another obvious trick.

The time is now or never for Pakistan, already one nil down, they must bounce back in this game if they are to give themselves a chance of winning the series. If the Proteas take a 2-0 lead, the uphill task for the tourists will become improbable. Misbah needs to play his best cards and hope for a turnaround in fortune.

South Africa, under the leadership of AB de Villiers is looking strong in a bid to improve its ODI ranking. Their top order is solid as ever but the lower half lacks experience which can be exposed if ever a collapse is in order, just like the Kiwis so brilliantly displayed earlier this summer.

Colin Ingram, who already has three centuries in seventeen innings, will be looking to become a permanent fixture in the squad while Faf du Plessis is struggling to bring his Test batting form in the shorter formats and will also want to make it count. With Dale Steyn expected to be back for the second game and Morne Morkel on the verge of full fitness, it will not get easier for Pakistan.

Game Changer: Pakistan needs a spark to set the team alight. They have to come out and surprise South Africa with something different, maybe an innovation in batting order, in selection or just in their attitude. Though, if they continue to use similar ploys, they could just end up going through the motions and the game might not change.

Pre-Game Talk:  “It's Wasim Akram, we watched some footage of him the other day for the bowling group to understand what bowling yorkers is actually about.” Allan Donald is using Wasim Akram’s videos in class room sessions, something Pakistan should also be taking note of.

“The truth is we are not getting quality fast bowlers in the footsteps of greats like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis or Shoaib Akhtar. And the situation is not encouraging in domestic cricket as well.” Chief selector Iqbal Qasim reveals that Pakistan’s much-touted fast bowling cupboard may just be bare.

Last XI Fielded South Africans:  Graeme Smith, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers (capt and wk), Colin Ingram, Faf du Plessis, Farhaan Behardien, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, Robin Peterson, Kyle Abbott, Lonwabo Tsotsobe

Last XI Fielded Pakistanis: Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Shahid Afridi, , Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal (wk), Umar Gul, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal.

Possible Changes:

South Africa: Kyle Abbott should make way for Dale Steyn if he joins the team in time. Morne Morkel might also play if declared fit.

Pakistan: Mohammad Irfan and Umer Akmal could be back on a pitch that will have little assistance for spinners. Younis, Asad or Shoaib Malik might lose their spot. A brisk 34 in the first game could allow Afridi to play the second ODI even after an abysmal performance with the ball.

Final Words: Pakistan still seems to rely on the tactic of keeping wickets in hand and changing gears in the last 15 to 20 overs. With a long tail and an out of form lower middle order, this strategy is a death trap they keep falling in. They must find away to consistently score through an innings in order to build one, it is after all 2013.