Teams start even in new format
Match FactsMarch 1, 2013
Start time 1800 local (1600GMT)
South Africa's summer of Test cricket is over but the sunshine and good times are not. Another three weeks of activity awaits and it is up to the limited-overs formats to turn what has been a one-sided series into a competitive, two-way street.
The balance has definitely tipped. It is no longer a No.1 ranked team in conditions that suit them up against a side determined to prove something. Both South Africa and Pakistan hover in the middle of the Twenty20 rankings at the moment. While South Africa have never tasted the success of a major trophy, Pakistan have and were responsible for dumping South Africa out of the 2009 World Twenty20 - which they went on to win - and beating them in both other meetings at a major tournament.
That fact sums up the difference between the two teams' approaches to limited-overs cricket. Pakistan have won when it matters, South Africa have when it doesn't. Add that to the hosts' current state of transition and Pakistan will see an opportunity to strike. They have with them a wealth of experience headed by Shahid Afridi while South Africa's young squad includes only four Test regulars.
In essence, this is a clash between a team still experimenting with the format and one that has never had the same urgency to master it because they thrive in unpredictability. Pakistan can be expected to bring every element of themselves that has made the world fall in love with cricket over and over again: the late batting-order revival, the surprise wickets, the picture-perfect catch. If all those elements combine perfectly, it will make for good viewing.
South Africa have promised to be more clinical, a suggestion that hints at no more floating batting line-up and miscalculations over who will bowl at the death. Given their haphazard approach to the shortest format, that shows they are taking it more seriously. The key will be not to be too rigid.
It's set up to be a contest of Pakistan's ability to light flames versus South Africa's new cool and supposedly inflammable nature. What a thrill it would be if the series sets on fire.
Form guide(Most recent first)
South Africa: WLWLL
In the Spotlight:
Although Faf du Plessis led the team with aplomb in their three-match series against New Zealand late last year, he was merely a stand-in then. Now, he is officially the permanent captain of the team and that will bring different pressure. Du Plessis has already shown he has the maturity to deal with being one of the senior-most batsmen in the XI and leading it and with a young squad under his command, the need for him to continue in that vein will be even more pressing.
His opposite number Mohammed Hafeez will also be under the microscope but for individual reasons. Hafeez was dismal with bat in hand in the Test series but now returns to the format where he has enjoyed much success. He does not have a red ball or Dale Steyn to worry about and Pakistan will be looking to him to kickstart some success for them on a tour that has so far brought only struggle.
In yet another shift in roles for AB de Villiers, the former captain will now open the batting and keep wickets. That probably means no space for young Quinton de Kock who had gloves in hand for the matches against New Zealand and batted at No.3. New leader du Plessis will bat out of his preferred position (the top two), but will most likely come in at No.3. Chris Morris will likely slot in the lower middle-order, which will leave Rory Kleinveldt, Kyle Abbott and Ryan McLaren to fight for two spots if Lonwabo Tsotsobe plays. Aaron Phangiso may miss out to Robin Peterson in the spinner's role.
South Africa: (probable) 1 AB de Villiers (wk), 2 Henry Davids, 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 Justin Ontong, 5 David Miller, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Chris Morris, 8 Robin Peterson, 9 and 10 Rory Kleinveldt/Kyle Abbott/Ryan McLaren, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Pakistan welcome back a galaxy of stars, with their brightest being Afridi. If the mercurial all-rounder brings his best side, it will be an immediate boost to them. The Akmal brothers, with Kamran likely to keep, are also back. Junaid Khan has recovered from the thigh wound which kept him out of the last two Tests, and is available for selection.
Pakistan: (probable) 1 Nasir Jamshed, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammed Hafeez (capt), 4 Umar Akmal, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Kamran Akmal (wk), 7 Shahid Afridi, 8, Wahab Riaz/Juniad Khan 9 Umar Gul, 10 Saeed Ajmal, 11 Mohammed Irfan
Stats and Trivia:
- Only one point separates these two teams on the rankings. South Africa are at No.5 and Pakistan No.6
- The longest winning streak enjoyed by both South Africa and Pakistan is seven matches. South Africa's was between March and June 2009 and Pakistan's in the same year between June and November.
- The teams have played each other six times in T20s, with each side winning three. Their last encounter was at the World Twenty20 in September last year, which Pakistan won.
"We are practising skills now that we want to be better at in six to ten games time. It's not going to happen now because we don't have a lot of time together as a T20 squad."
South Africa's new captain Faf du Plessis is looking to the future as he takes charge of the national side
"We are really missing crowd support because we don't play cricket at home. If we can get some support, it will be good."
Mohammed Hafeez hopes to tap into the sub-continental heritage of Durban and swing the fans his team's way
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent