Serious business starts for Pakistan and South Africa
September 28, 2012
Start time 1530 local (1000 GMT)
What appears to be the tougher of the two Super Eight groups gets underway with a repeat of the 2009 World T20 semi-final, a match that is remembered as one the most thrilling, in a format where almost anything can be labelled so. Historically, these two make good opponents: the unpredictability of Pakistan against the sometimes uber-predictability of South Africa. But things have changed.
Pakistan still implode at times but tend to bring some of their best games to major tournaments. They have also tempered their fiery side with reason and both have been on display in equal measure in the group stage and even before that, in series against Australia and Sri Lanka. Combined, those two contrasting styles could result in a Pakistan side that consistently performs as well as they have done of late.
They defended a decent total against a determined New Zealand line-up and then turned on the heat when they hunted down Bangladesh's score ruthlessly. Importantly, their top three all have runs to their name and each of the bowlers, particularly Saeed Ajmal, have seen success.
South Africa also take confidence into this round. They have had one all-too-easy encounter (against Zimbabwe) and one severely reduced match (a seven-over-a-side shootout against Sri Lanka) and managed not to get carried away by the former or spooked by the latter. Their philosophy when playing major tournaments appears to have changed. AB de Villiers spoke about not needing to win every game but building to a crescendo but South Africa have so far won and built at the same time.
Having been on tour since the beginning of July, Gary Kirsten has stressed the importance of being fresh to his men. They had two days off in Bentota before they resumed training, which was describe as "lengthy and intensive" by the coaching staff. Surprisingly, they do not have a certain starting line-up as they try to keep an aura of mystery about them in their bid for ICC silverware.
(completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa WWLWW
Watch out for
South Africa will not have fond memories of playing against Shahid Afridi after he was solely responsible for stopping their march at the 2009 event. Afridi was a one-man act as he destroyed a Graeme Smith-led side that had not lost a single match in the lead-up to the semi-finals with both bat and ball. He is a man for a big occasion and even though the contest is not a knockout, to make a statement of intent against one of the favourites may be just the stage for Afridi to perform as he did on that day.
Power is the quality that most batsmen want to be able to use to score runs in the shortest format, but Hashim Amla has chosen a different route. Small adaptations to his game have allowed him to keep the class and still become the world's top-ranked ODI batsman. Flanked by the strength of the Richard Levi and the experience of Jacques Kallis, Amla is the calm in the South African batting line-up, something they will need as the tournament goes on.
Pakistan played the same XI in both their group matches and with two good results should keep the same team.
Pakistan : 1 Mohammad Hafeez (capt), 2 Imran Nazir, 3 Nasir Jamshed, 4 Kamran Akmal (wk), 5 Umar Akmal, 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Yasir Arafat, 9 Sohail Tanvir, 10 Umar Gul, 11 Saeed Ajmal
South Africa also won both their matches, although they fielded different XIs, with the change being in the batting line-up. Faf du Plessis was given an opportunity to bat at No. 3 against Sri Lanka and scored 13 in a reduced game. He is the likeliest to be left out as South Africa opt for two spinners on a pitch that should take more turn than was on offer in Hambantota.
South Africa (probable): 1 Richard Levi, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers (capt & wk), 5 JP Duminy, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Albie Morkel 8 Johan Botha 9 Robin Peterson 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Dale Steyn
Pitch and conditions
Albie Morkel expects a more typically sub-continental surface in Colombo compared with what he called "home conditions," in Hambantota. The pitch is said to be much slower, with little in it for the quicks. A 60% chance of rain should lessen as the afternoon grows longer but the chance of another shortened match remains.
Stats and trivia
- Three of the top four wicket-takers in World T20 are all from Pakistan. Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul are on 29, 27 and 27 wickets respectively.
- South Africa and Pakistan have played against each other in five T20s, twice in World T20s. South Africa have a better head-to-head record, winning three of the five played overall.
Quotes"The beauty of our batting line-up is that we have a lot of variety and different sets of batting skills in our line-up. Guys can use their feet, guys can sweep, guys can reverse sweep; so we have some very good options in our line-up."
South Africa assistant coach Russell Domingo says the team have got all the bases covered to counter the threat of Saeed Ajmal
"We are blessed with some of the greats in T20s, especially Ajmal and Afridi. This is our main strength even though we also rely on our fast bowlers."
Mohammad Hafeez knows which department is Pakistan's strongest
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent