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The Preview by Firdose Moonda
March 20, 2013
Match factsMarch 21, Kingsmead
Big PictureThe series has reached its crossroad. Either it will be decided in Durban - in which case South Africa will seal a trophy and begin to change perceptions about the venue being a hoodoo ground - or Pakistan will further rubberstamp that theory and take a still-alive contest to Benoni on Sunday.
After two one-sided games in Bloemfontein and Centurion, the series ignited at the Wanderers where a high-scoring match offered a glimpse into both teams' strengths and weaknesses. Pakistan still have the ability to bounce back from the unlikeliest of situations, South Africa still get themselves into winning positions and freeze when that changes.
In Johannesburg, they thawed just in time to stop the Shahid Afridi juggernaut but his innings will give Pakistan belief. They know that Kingsmead is must-win for them, but they also know that they could not have asked for a better venue to face that kind of challenge. Apart from a pitch that should suit them, Pakistan will have massive support in Durban, which may leave South Africa feeling up against it.
The home team's main focus is consistency and the only way for them to start building some of that will be to win the next two matches. Without Faf du Plessis, their middle order will be thoroughly tested as they aim for that.
Pakistan also have injury worries, which will affect their bowling combinations. That said, at this late stage of a tour, bench strength is bound to be exposed and the unit that has the ability to use its best will deservedly come out on top.
Form guideSouth Africa: WLWWL (most recent first)
Players to watchEvery few months, Graeme Smith's name comes up as a candidate for the chop in South Africa's limited-overs teams and every time it happens, he responds with a decent score. It's happened again, with his 116 against New Zealand forgotten in the shadows of the 30, 10 and 3 he has notched up in the series so far. What is more noticeable than a lack of runs is his increasing uneasiness against Pakistan's opening bowlers. He has never been an attractive player and often wills his way to big scores, and the stage is set for that to happen again.
By the same token, his opposite number, Nasir Jamshed, is also under pressure to produce. After back to back hundreds against India, Jamshed's potential was obvious but he has not replicated that in South Africa. He looks confident and plays a few aggressive strokes but is often guilty of giving his wicket away. His often comical fielding has come under scrutiny as well and with calls for Kamran Akmal to open, he may realise the time has come to step up.
Team newsFaf du Plessis has been ruled out of the series with a lower back problem which will present an opportunity to either David Miller, who was already in the squad or Quinton de Kock, who was brought in. It's far likelier that Miller will play ahead of de Kock. Kyle Abbott may be called on to play at his home ground in place of either Rory Kleinveldt or Lonwabo Tsostobe. Morne Morkel, who still recovering from his hamstring strain, was spotted having a long stint in the nets on the match eve, so a return for him cannot be ruled out either.
South Africa (probable) 1 Graeme Smith 2 Hashim Amla 3 Colin Ingram, 4 AB de Villiers (capt & wk), 5 David Miller/Quinton de Kock, 6 Farhaan Behardien, 7 Ryan McLaren 8 Robin Peterson 9 Dale Steyn, 10 and 11 Kyle Abbott/Rory Kleinveldt/Morne Morkel
Pakistan are waiting on Umar Gul and Mohammad Irfan's availability and have drafted Sohail Tanvir into the squad as cover. Tanvir has been in good form with both bat and ball for the Lions franchise and so, even if either of the pair is fit, he may still be considered in place of Wahab Riaz. Kaman Akmal appears to have moved up the order and the batting line-up is likely to remain unchanged. Pressure on Younis Khan after a few poor matches means that Asad Shafiq could come back in.
Pakistan (probable) 1 Nasir Jamshed, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Kamran Akmal (wk), 4 Younis Khan/Asad Shafiq, 5 Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), 6 Shoaib Malik, 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Umar Gul/Wahab Riaz/Sohail Tanvir, 9 Saeed Ajmal 10 Junaid Khan, 11 Mohammsd Irfan/Sohail Tanvir
Pitch and conditionsMention Durban and two things come to mind: un-South African conditions and rain. At least only the former is expected to make an appearance in this match. The surface will be slower than any other venue that has been used in the series so far and it is said to favour opposition more than it does the hosts. South Africa will mindful of changing that perception and the weather should play its part in allowing them to do that. A clear, sunny day is forecast for Durban with no precipitation.
Stats and trivia
Quotes"When you miss key players in important games, it's a loss but it tests your depth as a squad, which is important going into the Champions Trophy in England."
"I truly believe we're heading in the right direction, especially from the bowling side of things. The guys are coming up with very clear gameplans and they know exactly what they want to do."
AB de Villiers is pleased with the progress South Africa have made
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondentFeeds: Firdose Moonda
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the third ODI between England and India at Trent Bridge