Series win beckons for South Africa
Match FactsNovember 5, Dubai
Start time 15:00 (11:00 GMT)
The Big Picture
South Africa have an opportunity to wrap up the five-match series in the fourth match at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, but to make sure that happens, they will have to improve on an area that they are traditionally world class in: fielding. Daryll Cullinan, the former South Africa batsman, labelled the current team "the worst fielding side since readmission", and while the situation may not be quite that dire, the number of dropped catches and missed run-out chances in Tuesday's match suggested there is still some work to be done.
The bowling has also been a concern for South Africa, and although they successfully defended 228 in the third ODI, Pakistan came within two runs of a thrilling win. The bowlers leaked 56 runs during the batting Powerplay in that match and have to find a way of plugging the gap soon.
The likely return of Dale Steyn should help in that regard, but Lonwabo Tsotsobe's withdrawal due to a back spasm is unfortunate. Tsotsobe had done a great deal to further his claims for a full-time spot as South Africa's limited-overs new-ball bowler on this tour, picking up six wickets in the first three games at a parsimonious 3.13 runs to the over. His canny changes of pace and unhittable lengths played a major role in South Africa's triumph on Tuesday, and he will surely be missed.
Pakistan have already pulled off one magnificent series leveller, in the second match, and will have to aim for a repeat performance. Their bowling, Mohammed Hafeez in particular, has kept the pressure on the South Africans and Akhtar also showed how vicious he can still be, even on a slow, low Dubai wicket, in Tuesday's match.
It's the batting that has really let Pakistan down. Abdul Razzaq's magnificent century bailed them out in the second ODI and Fawad Alam's gutsy, unbeaten 59 almost did the trick on Tuesday, but without a strong performance from the top six, Pakistan are always at risk of being found wanting.
Form guide(most recent first)
South Africa: WLWWW
Watch out for...
Such is the nature of the role of 'finisher' in the one-day game, a particularly acute focus is brought to bear on the successes or failures of any player designated with that position. Fawad Alam's place in Pakistan's middle order has been open to such scrutiny since his inauspicious debut on one of their previous visits to Abu Dhabi, but he appears to be settling into the role and registered his fourth ODI fifty in the third match. With another close finish a distinct possibility, his contribution at the death could prove the difference.
Wayne Parnell wasn't quite at his best on his return from injury against Zimbabwe in October, but appeared increasingly confident with each outing and his enviable limited-overs record suggests he'll have a leading role to play - particularly, as a left-armer, in Tsotsobe's absence. His value is increased by his stubborn batting and youthful energy in the field.
Graeme Smith has recovered from the blow to his hand courtesy of Shoaib Ahktar in the first match, and returns to the top of the order. Steyn's return will go some way towards making up for Tsotsobe's absence, while Parnell slots in as an allround option.
South Africa (possible): 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers (wk), 5 Colin Ingram, 6 JP Duminy, 7 Albie Morkel 8 Johan Botha, 9 Wayne Parnell, 10 Dale Steyn, 11 Morne Morkel
Pakistan need something inspirational to draw level with South Africa, and so the temptation to bring back Umar Akmal's X-factor will arise once again. It's unclear who might make way for him, with Asad Shafiq the likeliest to sit out. With Umar Gul yet to recover from injury, and Wahab Riaz performing admirably in his absence, the bowling line-up should be settled. However, Shahid Afridi has hinted that left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman could come in for Saeed Ajmal, who has been less effective than it was hoped he would be.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Imran Farhat, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Umar Akmal, 5 Fawad Alam, 6 Shahid Afridi (capt), 7 Abdul Razzaq, 8 Zulqarnain Haider (wk), 9 Wahab Riaz, 10 Shoaib Akhtar, 11 Saeed Ajmal/Abdur Rehman
Pitch and conditions
The wicket generally played true, although slightly slow and low, on Tuesday and there's no reason for conditions to be any different on Friday with the same strip being used for all three games. With the wear and tear from the last match, there should be a little life in the pitch to keep both the seamers and spinners interested. Hot, sunny conditions should prevail in the afternoon with a warm, dry evening to follow.
Stats and trivia
- South Africa's 228 for 9 in the last game is the highest ever total at the Dubai International Stadium, although it was also just the third ODI to be played at the venue. It has hosted 12 Twenty20 internationals, many of which have also been low-scoring affairs with Pakistan's 161 for 8 against New Zealand last year the highest score in that format.
- Hashim Amla has scored eight international hundreds, three in Tests and five in ODIs, this year, with 1782 runs at 81.00 in 20 matches. His 119 in the last match took him straight to the top of the list of leading run-scorers at the Dubai International cricket stadium.
- Shahid Afridi tops the wicket-takers' list for this venue, with 10 scalps in three games here.
"The victory in the second one-day match and the close finish here has given us the confidence. If we can play with a positive mind, we can win the fourth match."
Shahid Afridi urges his troops to stay positive and keep the series alive
""The wicket is not going to be easier as it is going to be same strip for all three one-dayers and that is going to be interesting."
South Africa's stand-in captain, Johan Botha, hints that Friday's game could be another low-scoring affair.