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Firdose Moonda in Johannesburg
November 19, 2013
'Team is in a good space' - Faf du Plessis
Faf du Plessis was attending a function in Johannesburg late on Monday afternoon that took him past the Wanderers Stadium. He saw the floodlights on and, because the domestic season is well underway already, he knew they were not being tested. Instead, something else was happening under them.
"I knew Pakistan were training quite late and I thought they must be practicing quite a lot," du Plessis, South Africa's T20 captain, said. "We're only going to have the one session before the match (on Wednesday)."
South Africa took the weekend and Monday off after their arrival from the UAE. Pakistan, meanwhile, have been hard at work. They decided to rest on Tuesday, when news emerged that two of their players, Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Malik, have been ruled out of the tour to add to an injury list which also includes Mohammad Irfan, who did not make the trip to South Africa at all.
Pakistan have made use of their time to practice more, an action which du Plessis believes suggests the state of mind they are in. "They will be desperate to put in good performances here and it's important that we don't give them a sniff," du Plessis said.
Despite beating Pakistan in the last five matches, three ODIs and two T20s, du Plessis wants his team to keep the bigger picture in. Complacency at home has occasionally been the undoing of the South African Test team - they did not win a series on home soil between 2009 and 2011 - but du Plessis does not expect that to extend to his T20 team.
"It's still the goal to get to the top of the rankings. Russell [Domingo, the coach] and I have been speaking that language to the guys," he said. What du Plessis wants to ensure is consistent performances to get to No.1.
For that to happen, South Africa could easily think they need to only perform as well as they did in the UAE, where their batting showed greater maturity than it has in the shorter formats all year and their bowling, incisive. But du Plessis wants to push his men beyond that, although he needs Pakistan's help.
"We would like to have two tough games and we want to be able to win in competitive situations and when the pressure is on," he said. "We want to try and emulate what will happen in World Cup situations. Something like the previous game where it was close. Even if we didn't win that, we learnt a lot and it showed we are moving in the right direction."
South Africa beat Pakistan by six runs in Dubai last Friday in a fixture that had its squeaky-bum moments. At 101 for 3 in the 14th over, chasing 151, Pakistan were in the pound seats before South Africa's bowlers engineered a dramatic collapse.
It was the kind of performance du Plessis did not think South Africa were capable of just eight months ago when they were shot out for their lowest T20 total of 100 in a 95-run defeat to Pakistan in Centurion. "We've come a long way from that day," du Plessis said.
Pakistan, though, will have to come a similarly far distance in a much shorter space of time, just four days, if they are to make good on all the practice they've been putting in to stretch South Africa in this series.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Shorter tours don't allow you time to get into form, and domestic cricket isn't demanding enough