Will Pakistan's batsmen stand up to be counted?
Series FactsOctober 29, Abu Dhabi
Start time 15:00 (11:00 GMT)
The Big PictureIt's no state secret that Pakistan's Achilles heel is their batting. Watching their familiar collapses leaves you with a feeling of numbness these days. It's the same script that seems to be playing on an endless loop: the openers combust mindlessly, Umar Akmal plays couple of pretty shots before throwing his wicket away, Shahid Afridi biffs a few big shots before holing out, and the innings meanders aimlessly in the end.
Will the one-day series against South Africa turn out to be different? Younis Khan is back but there is no Mohammad Yousuf or Shoaib Malik. Much will depend on how fast the hugely-talented Umar Akmal matures and how long Shahid Afridi can remain calm. Mohammad Hafeez bowled well in the Twenty20 games but didn't last long with the bat. Again, it was the same-old failing: couple of quality hits preceded an adrenalin rush that led to his dismissal. Can he turn it around in the ODI series?
South Africa will be reinforced by the return of Jacques Kallis, Hashim Amla, and Dale Steyn. It will be interesting to see who makes way for Kallis in the middle order. Will it be the impressive Colin Ingram, who played such a cool finishing hand in both Twenty20s, or will it be David Miller? While Ingram offers stability, Miller offers explosiveness - who will they choose?
Form guide(most recent first)
South Africa: WWWWW
Watch out for...Younis Khan is back but won't get much breathing space to ease into the team. The middle order lacks the experience of Yousuf and Malik, and Pakistan will hope that Younis can hold the innings together in the middle overs. He has struggled in the last two years, though: in the 27 games he played during that period, he averaged 25.11 with just one hundred. In the eight matches he played in the last year, he averaged just 11.12. He doesn't have a great record against South Africa: he averages 25.92 from 29 ODIs at a strike rate of 66.97
Graeme Smith He averaged 28 from three games against Zimbabwe. He hit a painstaking, but vital, 38 in the second Twenty20 game against Pakistan where he struggled against the spinners but didn't throw his wicket away. It will be interesting to track his progress through this series.
Pakistan have a few tough batting decisions to make. It's a battle between the old and the new: Younis and Misbah v the youngsters they will displace. Will Asad Shafiq and Fawad Alam get chances? Will Shahzaib Hasan be dropped or will it be Imran Farhat? Will Hafeez be played as an opener?
Pakistan (possible): 1 Imran Farhat, 2 Mohammed Hafeez, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Umar Akmal, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq, 6 Shahid Afridi (capt), 7 Abdul Razzaq, 8 Zulqarnain Haider (wk), 9 Umar Gul, 10 Shoaib Akhtar, 11 Saeed Ajmal.
South Africa (possible): 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers (wk),5 JP Duminy, 6 Colin Ingram/David Miller, 7 Albie Morkel/Rusty Theron, 8 Morne Morkel, 9 Johan Botha, 10 Lonwabo Tsotsobe, 11 Dale Steyn.
Stats and trivia
- South Africa have won their last nine ODI games. Their previous eight wins have come against West Indies and Zimbabwe.
- Johan Botha's career bowling average is 39.57 but it skyrockets to 102.50 from five matches against Pakistan. His economy rate climbs from a career average of 4.62 to 5.06 against Pakistan. Dale Steyn is yet to play an ODI against Pakistan.
"You've got two guys [Morkel and Steyn]. One has bounce and he can hit 145 kph, the other has swing and can hit 140 to 150kph. They are wonderful assets to have. "
Graeme Smith knows his team's strengths
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.