Pakistan's chance to stamp authority
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Centurion, 10.00 (08.00 GMT)
Usually once a series is won there is not much to get excited about but this is a little different. Pakistan, who have already racked up what their captain Misbah-ul-Haq called "a really big achievement" by beating South Africa for the first time in a bilateral series, stand to add to it. Victory at Centurion will make them only the second team to whitewash South Africa in an ODI series of three matches.
Although South Africa will be concerned with avoiding that fate, they also have the smaller picture to consider. While the Twenty20 side has found its rhythm, the ODI outfit cannot seem to do the same. Batting inconsistencies continue to work against them and even though one game cannot help them fix it, it may be an opportunity to solve some problems.
Without Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis, some of South Africa's next generation will be on display and with public speculation mounting about whether there is space for the two stalwarts in the set-up, this will be the chance to see. The middle-order focus will be on David Miller, who hasn't been his usual destructive self, with the bowling expected to perform as they have throughout the recent ODI matches.
Pakistan will also want batting improvements if there are to seize their chance for total domination. Even if their top-order fail again they will back their bowlers to make up for any lapses, as has been the case in the opening two rubbers.
Along with a South Africa revival, Pakistan's goal may be spoiled by afternoon thunderstorms which have come down all week and are forecast for Saturday. Should the heavens open again, it may put an early end to the series which is now in its sixth week of limited-overs clashes.
(last five completed games most recent first)
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In the spotlight
The promising start Henry Davids made to his international career unravelled in his last six T20s. He has only managed single-figure scores, appeared to be struggling on subcontinental surfaces and against quality spinners but was also asked to bat in the middle order, where he was more exposed. He has not played an ODI for South Africa yet, although he has the domestic record that suggests he should have, and it may be a chance to show he has what it takes to play at the highest level. On his home ground in a dead rubber, Davids will be faced with pleasant pressure although he may still bat outside of his preferred position in the top two.
Mohammad Hafeez has not contributed significantly with the bat in seven ODIs, all against South Africa, since his undefeated 136 against Zimbabwe. Without Dale Steyn in the opposition attack, Hafeez will fancy his chances of registering a worthwhile score and breaking a run drought against a team who has not been able to assert himself over with bat in hand.
South Africa are without three of their biggest names which will force them to make substantial alterations to their XI. Dale Steyn and Jacques Kallis are out with injury niggles while Graeme Smith has been given compassionate leave after his grandmother died.
Quinton de Kock is an opener by trade and could replace Smith in the top two but because he has shown he can adjust to the No. 3 position as well, it may make allow Henry Davids to bat in his usual position as an opener. Vernon Philander will likely come back in for Steyn while Ryan McLaren and Wayne Parnell will have to fight it out for the allrounders' spot.
South Africa: (possible) 1 Hashim Amla, 2 Henry Davids, 3 Quinton de Kock (wkt) 4 AB de Villiers (capt), 5 JP Duminy, 6 David Miller, 7 Wayne Parnell, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Morne Morkel, 10 Lonwabo Tsoosbe, 11 Imran Tahir
Although changing a winning combination isn't the done thing, Pakistan may still have reason to make one change to their XI. With Nasir Jamshed continually misfiring and no Steyn to trouble Mohammad Hafeez early on, they could pair Hafeez with Ahmed Shehzad at the top and bring Umar Amin into the middle order to bolster the batting.
Pakistan: (possible) 1 Ahmed Shehzad, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Sohaib Maqsood, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Umar Akmal (wkt), 7 Umar Amin, 7 Shahid Afridi, 9 Bilawal Bhatti, 9 Anwar Ali, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Junaid Khan
Stats and trivia
"There's a lot to play for. From an opportunity point of view, it's really good for the other guys to get a go. We know we've got India in a few days' time. To create winning momentum is going to be important for us."
Despite the match's dead-rubber status Hashim Amla found a reason for South Africa to treat the fixture with the same intensity as any other.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent