Rao Iftikhar likely to play final ODI
Rao Iftikhar Anjum, one of several back-up seamers called to South Africa during Pakistan's troubled tour, looks set to get the call-up into the starting XI for the final one-day international at the Wanderers on Wednesday.
Inzamam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan captain, hinted on the eve of the game at "two or three changes" to their side for a match they must win to level the series 2-2, one game having been washed out by rain. While he wasn't entirely forthcoming on some of the other changes, he was pretty direct when it came to the inclusion of Anjum, the 26-year-old swing bowler from Islamabad.
"Rao Iftikhar will definitely be given a chance, in the last year he has bowled very well," Inzamam said ahead of the team's final practice session. Rao Iftikhar could come in for Mohammad Asif, who is suffering from an elbow problem and should be rested lest he tear a ligament there ahead of a World Cup in which he will be a key bowler for Pakistan. That could mean a reprieve for Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. He has had a torrid time in the series but he will play unless Mohammad Sami recovers from his back strain.
Kamran Akmal is another player who has had a miserable series opening the batting, and he could be moved down the order with Imran Nazir and Shoaib Malik opening the batting. While Inzamam was talking about "hard work", "seeing and learning from our mistakes" and "taking responsibility" as being necessary if Pakistan were to recover from their ten-wicket mauling in Cape Town, South Africa were not taking their cushy position for granted.
"This is a pressure game for us because we really want to win the series, so that means it's like a final," Shaun Pollock said. "We are really motivated because if we lose we don't win the series."
Pollock did not agree that Pakistan were dead and buried after South Africa's bloodless coup at Newlands last weekend, in which they achieved victory with 36 overs to spare. "They have some very dangerous match-winners and some amazing talent. If they click as a unit, they will be very difficult to beat," Pollock cautioned. "But the results will look after themselves if we make sure we are on top of our game, we know our game plan and we use it to put pressure on them.
"The team is looking good, well-balanced, and everybody knows their roles. We have the talent and ability to do well, whether we need to chase 430 or bowl sides out cheaply. We just have to make sure the right South African team turns up on the day."
Ken Borland is a journalist with the MWP Sports Agency in South Africa.