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October 30, 2010
Match FactsOctober 31, Abu Dhabi
The Big Picture
Pakistan's batting is going through one of its worst phases, not far behind the shambolic Sharjah Test in 2002 against Australia when their 20 wickets scrounged a total of 112 runs. For 30 overs of Friday's game, Pakistan seemed to have overcome their woes: Younis Khan and Mohammad Hafeez resorted to the old-school formula of conserving wickets and setting up a late surge, a method that has been the cornerstone of Pakistan's many memorable one-day successes. However, the middle order imploded once again; Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq exited to strokes whose replays should have made them cringe, while Abdul Razzaq fell fending lethargically at one that angled in. The fact that some of their most accomplished players were at the forefront of the collapse suggests the current phase is a crisis of confidence and attitude, more than a question of talent.
Pakistan's senior batsmen have to do some serious introspection, and they don't need to search too hard to find inspiration. After nine months of upheaval, when he possibly visited tribunals and disciplinary committees more often than the batting nets, Younis walked into the middle overs with the assurance of someone completely at ease with his methods. Inevitably, there was some rust - he survived a palpable lbw shout, and managed only two boundaries in the sapping conditions - but unlike his colleagues, the rust was restricted to the physical aspect of Younis' game, while his mind remained uncluttered. Can Afridi rally his team-mates to follow Younis' example?
Having sealed three easy wins on the trot, South Africa's main concern will be that they are not being stretched enough in subcontinental conditions, ahead of the World Cup. Their batsmen were challenged more by the elements than by Pakistan's attack in the opening ODI, and the question mark over Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis' availability for Sunday could even things a bit. Lonwabo Tsotsobe has been the star of the tour so far, but even he will be a little surprised by the success his honest off-cutters and in-duckers have courted. The conditions, and a look at the schedule, may prompt South Africa to consider rotating their players, but they won't want to give Pakistan an opportunity to draw level either.
Form guide(most recent first)
Watch out for...
While Pakistan's middle-overs batting has been a problem, their bowling in the same period, led by Saeed Ajmal, has been impressive. Ajmal's doosras and changes in length often had Kallis and JP Duminy groping without conviction. Only AB de Villiers seemed to have a measure of his guiles, before he too fell to a floater. Ajmal can pose a huge threat if he has the cushion of runs. Are Pakistan's batsmen listening?
Going by his recent appetite for runs, Hashim Amla will be disappointed with his dismissal after a quick 35 on Friday. His last ten innings have included four centuries, and two near-tons. Sunday could be the day when the 'Monk' graces the Middle East.
Smith and Kallis are both under observation as they recover from a finger injury and cramps respectively. Kallis had to be administered an intravenous drip after suffering dehydration on Friday, and Albie Morkel will fancy his chances of replacing him. X-rays have revealed Smith has not endured a fracture but, given his history with finger injuries, South Africa may want to give him time to recover completely. The lack of a specialist replacement opener in the squad, though, could make things interesting vis-à-vis the batting order. Colin Ingram might be forced to open if Smith does not make the cut.
South Africa (possible): 1 Graeme Smith (capt) / Colin Ingram, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 AB de Villiers (wk), 4 JP Duminy, 5 Jacques Kallis / Albie Morkel, 6 David Miller, 7 Johan Botha, 8 Morne Morkel, 9 Robin Peterson, 10 Lonwabo Tsotsobe, 11 Charl Langeveldt
While Pakistan need massive changes in their approach, they don't have too many resources available to make changes to their line-up. Umar Akmal, who was excluded for the first game, may return in place of Fawad Alam.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Asad Shafiq, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq, 5 Fawad Alam / Umar Akmal, 6 Shahid Afridi (capt), 7 Abdul Razzaq, 8 Zulqarnain Haider (wk), 9 Umar Gul, 10 Shoaib Akhtar, 11 Saeed Ajmal
Stats and trivia
"Losing players from your top eleven is never easy. I sincerely hope they are cleared and are available to play for Pakistan because they are key players."
Pakistan coach Waqar Younis hopes for a favourable outcome from the spot-fixing hearings in Dubai
"I must say I have been working very hard to get where I am now."
Tsotsobe reaps the fruits of hard work
As West Indies play their 500th Test, here's an interactive journey through their Test history
Hundred in a session? Easy peasy for Doug Walters