Pakistan v South Africa, ODI series, UAE October 26, 2010

South Africa start firm favourites

Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan
Pakistan's inconsistent batting could be their biggest problem in the ODI series against in-form South Africa

After all the recent controversies, Pakistan will be glad to be involved in some quality cricket ahead of the World Cup. They also need to lift their ODI act considerably, for their recent form in this format has been rather disappointing: following a horror start to 2010 when they were thrashed 5-0 in the ODI series in Australia, they lost to both India and Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup, before defeating Bangladesh. On the controversial tour of England earlier this year, Pakistan lost a close ODI series 3-2.

South Africa, on the other hand, are coming into the series on a nine match winning streak. Since 2005, the two teams have played each other 11 times with South Africa winning on seven occasions. The last series between the teams was played in Pakistan in 2007, when South Africa came back from a 1-2 deficit to win the series 3-2. This will be the fifth ODI series for Pakistan in Dubai and Abu Dhabi since 2007: Pakistan won the first two series, against Sri Lanka and West Indies, but went down to Australia and New Zealand since then.

Pakistan's ODI record since Jan 2007
Played Won Lost NR
Overall 75 37 37 1
Abu Dhabi and Dubai 14 8 6 0
v South Africa in South Africa 5 1 3 1
v South Africa in Pakistan 5 2 3 0

South Africa have played far fewer matches over the last two years than most teams, but have the best win-loss record over the period. Their batting average and run-rate is the best among all teams. Their bowling average is better than most teams, but their economy rate of 5.14 isn't as good. Pakistan's bowling has generally been effective, but their poor results have largely been because of their inconsistent batting. They average just over 25 and score at less than five runs per over, which is a clear indicator of their batting woes.

ODI performance of top teams since Oct 26, 2008
Team Played Won Lost W/L ratio Batting average Run-rate Bowling average Economy rate
South Africa 33 24 9 2.66 40.73 5.93 31.34 5.14
Australia 61 38 20 1.90 34.87 5.22 29.46 4.89
India 58 34 20 1.70 36.45 5.73 36.79 5.44
Sri Lanka 51 30 19 1.57 30.79 5.20 30.41 4.95
England 44 23 21 1.09 29.39 5.23 33.60 5.17
New Zealand 41 16 20 0.80 25.43 5.13 32.30 4.87
Pakistan 36 14 22 0.63 25.18 4.95 33.28 4.93
West Indies 42 10 28 0.35 25.09 5.07 33.92 4.98

Pakistan's best batsmen over the last two years in ODIs have been the Akmal brothers and Shahid Afridi. Afridi scored two centuries in the Asia Cup, including a stunning 109 off just 76 balls against Sri Lanka in a close defeat. Misbah-ul-Haq averages nearly 40 and will be one of the key batsmen in the middle order along with the experienced Younis Khan. Pakistan's biggest problem is the instability of the top order: the first three wickets average less than 29 over the last two years, with just three century partnerships.

South Africa though have been the best batting side by a distance during this period. AB de Villiers has been the top batsman with six centuries at an average of nearly 69. Hashim Amla and Jacques Kallis have also been among the runs but Graeme Smith has been slightly below par, averaging just over 35.

Umar Gul has been Pakistan's best ODI bowler in the last two years, picking up 51 wickets at under 25. He was in splendid form in England, taking 12 wickets in the series, including his career best 6 for 42 at The Oval. Saeed Ajmal and Afridi have been economical and among the wickets, and will probably be the biggest threat to South Africa on the slow tracks of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell have been the leading fast bowlers for South Africa over the last two years. The presence of Morne Morkel and Albie Morkel boosts the pace attack further, but Johan Botha's bowling will be crucial on the spin-friendly pitches.

South Africa's superiority in the batting department is further illustrated by comparing the performances across various stages of their innings. Their run-rate and average are far higher than Pakistan's in the first ten overs. In the middle and end overs too, South Africa are the better batting side. On the bowling front, though, Pakistan are far more competitive. Their economy rate is better than South Africa's in the middle overs, which highlights the role of their spinners. Gul and Ajmal have also proved very difficult to score off in the final overs and this is reflected in Pakistan's low economy rate during this stage of the innings.

Batting and bowling stats for South Africa and Pakistan since October 26, 2008
Innings Runs Run-rate Batting average Wickets Economy rate Bowling average
First 10 overs- SA 33 1832 5.55 59.09 40 4.89 40.35
First 10 overs-Pak 36 1470 4.08 29.40 40 5.05 45.50
Middle overs-SA 33 5209 5.44 46.09 148 4.86 31.66
Middle overs-Pak 36 4888 4.69 30.55 150 4.61 32.72
Last 10 overs-SA 33 1965 8.51 29.32 87 7.44 20.18
Last 10 overs-Pak 36 1818 7.26 19.54 79 6.81 21.53

Both venues for this series have proved to be bowler friendly with Dubai, in particular, being an extremely successful ground for spinners. Pace bowlers have performed better than spinners in Abu Dhabi, but spinners have the better run-rate. In Dubai, pace bowlers average more than 38, but the spinners average just over 16 while conceding four runs per over.

Venue stats for Abu Dhabi and Dubai
Ground Run-rate Pace - wickets Average Economy Spin - wickets Average Economy
Abu Dhabi 4.87 88 27.44 5.22 46 33.63 4.43
Dubai 4.32 13 38.38 4.40 14 16.07 4.00