Pakistan look for batting revival
Match factsMarch 15, 2013, Centurion
Start time 1430 local (1230GMT)
Big PictureIt has been five days since South Africa delivered one of their more convincing ODI victories but the time in between matches means it's likely the only momentum around will be the sponsors' name. The hosts enjoyed a short break with the most important change being that of regaining their premier strike bowler while Pakistan have had time to digest and regroup.
The series is almost starting anew this weekend with a double header on the Highveld which could end with the contest being decided by Sunday. For South Africa, that would signal the Champions Trophy preparation is well on track. Pakistan have to derail them to ensure next week's fixtures in Durban and Benoni provide a fitting end to the summer.
To judge Pakistan's one-day side on the Bloemfontein effort would be as unfair judging their Test outfit on the 49 all out at the Wanderers. As they showed in the longer format, they improved steadily as the contest went on and they can be expected to do that and more in the shorter version.
Tactically, they made poor decisions in the first match particularly in the make-up of their bowling attack. But crucially, they lacked energy, so much so that they asked stadium management to place a case of Red Bull in their dressing room hours before the match. The lethargy resulted in a mediocre showing in all departments and Misbah-ul-Haq conceded that a collective improvement is needed if they hope to compete.
South Africa, on the other hand, had a near-perfect showing. Their opening batsmen were slow and steady, the middle order piled it on and the bowlers finished off with enough menace and skill to satisfy captain AB de Villiers.
He still wants them to improve, not on anything specific as much as on consistency. Their recent one-day form has seen performances like theirs on Sunday, followed up by performances like Pakistan's. De Villiers wants to see them continue to apply themselves throughout the three weeks this five-match series goes on for. Only then will he consider them properly prepared for the challenges to come.
Form guide(Most recent first)
South Africa: WWLLW
In the spotlightIt has been a quiet few matches for Faf du Plessis , who has not scored a half-century since the home series against Pakistan began. If there is a venue where he would like to change that, it must be Centurion. Du Plessis grew from a boy to a man at the venue and has played all his domestic cricket for the Titans franchise. Although the South Africa middle order looked decidedly firmer in Bloemfontein, it is far from completely solid and du Plessis will play an important part in firming it up.
Mohammad Hafeez is one half of the alleged battle for power in the Pakistan setup. Although any suggestion of strife has been dismissed by the team management, if anything was simmering below the surface the loss last Sunday could have made it boil over. Hafeez claims he would prefer to open but, as in the Twenty20 squad, it may be better for him to drop down a place in order to provide either security or the ability to accelerate. Hafeez's bowling will also be important to Pakistan's chances of successes and he will be depended on to squeeze the hosts when needed.
Team newsMorne Morkel is still nursing his hamstring strain and will not be risked for this match but Dale Steyn has returned from Los Angeles and is available. Steyn has not had many overs under his belt over the last two weeks and with training washed out on Wednesday, he may be held back until he has had more time to prepare. Should that happen, Kyle Abbott will keep his place. David Miller was released to play for the Dolphins on Friday and will probably miss out again, with Farhaan Behardien keeping his place.
South Africa: (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Colin Ingram, 4 AB de Villiers (capt & wk), 5 Faf du Plessis, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Ryan McLaren, 8 Robin Peterson, 9 Rory Kleinveldt, 10 Dale Steyn/Kyle Abbott, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Given their batting problems, Pakistan may look to make changes and the possibility of Kamran Akmal opening may come up. He could either be a straight swap for Nasir Jamshed or he could slot into Hafeez's spot, and Hafeez could move down into Asad Shafiq's place. They should play an extra seamer on a spicier surface after the lack of one cost them in Bloemfontein and Mohammed Irfan would be the ideal replacement.
Pakistan: (probable) 1 and 2 Nasir Jamshed/Kamran Akmal/Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Younis Khan, 4 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 5 Asad Shafiq, 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Umar Gul, 9 Saeed Ajmal, 10 Junaid Khan, 11 Mohammed Irfan
Pitch and conditionsMore bounce and carry than in Bloemfontein but the biggest difference will be the size of the field. SuperSport Park's outfield is not as large as the one the teams played on on Sunday so singles and twos are less likely to be on offer than boundaries. Afternoon thundershowers have made an appearance all week and are likely to visit the ground again, although the interruption should be brief.
Stats and trivia
- South Africa have played 28 matches at SuperSport Park, won 18 and lost 10. They have won batting first exactly half the time. Pakistan have won two matches at the ground, in 1993 and 1994.
- Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers still sit at No.1 and No.2 on the ODI batting rankings. Pakistan's highest ranked batsman is Umar Akmal at No.15 although he did not play in Bloemfontein.
"You get value for your shots in Centurion. In Bloemfontein, the strategy was to run Pakistan off their feet and we did that well but you have to protect the boundary here. It should be a high-scoring game."
SuperSport Park will deliver a run fest according to AB de Villiers
"Normally wherever you go in one-day cricket, conditions are good for batting. The second T20 was really a wicket that suited Pakistan so if it is like that, it will really suit us.
Misbah-ul-Haq expects the Centurion strip more to his team's liking
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent