Pakistan v South Africa, Super Eights, St Lucia

Pressure mounts on struggling Pakistan

The Preview by Osman Samiuddin

May 9, 2010

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Match facts

Monday, May 10, St Lucia
Start time 0930 (1330 GMT)


Ian Butler snared Shahid Afridi, New Zealand v Pakistan, Super Eights, Group E, World Twenty20, Barbados, May 8, 2010
Shahid Afridi hasn't fired yet for Pakistan © Getty Images
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The Big Picture

Two of the brightest sides of last year's tournament have been two of the bigger disappointments this time. And yet, a win for either here could still see them through to the semi-finals, depending on what happens in the game between England and New Zealand.

Pakistan do not require a mathematical miracle to get through. A win here, and an England win over New Zealand, remarkably, might guarantee them a spot in the semis, given that Pakistan's net run-rate is superior to both New Zealand and South Africa. For Graeme Smith's men to go through, a win coupled with an English win, will be enough.

On most days South Africa would look the likelier bet, if only because Pakistan have been so timid and unsure through the tournament. But at spin-friendly St Lucia, with big stakes on the line, certainty is in short supply.

In any case, South Africa have been strangely inconsistent, a malaise that stretches beyond just this tournament and format to last year. In the Caribbean they've relied heavily on their pace duo of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel and both have been hot and cold; in particular, the latter's no-ball problems are beginning to hurt. Little errors have crept in, the kind of untidiness you do not expect from them; catches have been dropped, edges have gone through slips, fumbles here and there. Their batting has been consistently weak.

Pakistan have struggled with most things, their batting line, the make-up of their attack and their fielding. Shahid Afridi's form has gone, they've picked and dropped Mohammad Sami at the wrong moments, Abdul Razzaq has been used strangely, either opening the bowling or not bowling at all. Of their batsmen, only Salman Butt has been a success and he was least expected to be one.

Yet nobody, least of all South Africa, will forget that it is at these moments that they can be at their most dangerous.

Form guide (Most recent first)

Pakistan LLLWW
South Africa LWWLW

Watch out for

Abdur Rehman made a fine comeback against New Zealand, picking up two cheap wickets in his first T20I for over two years. He has always been a successful limited-overs left-arm option and his return comes after one of his best domestic seasons. South Africa still struggle to score quickly against spin and Rehman's position, amid the spin of Afridi and Saeed Ajmal, may well be crucial if the surface is given to spin.

Like India, Pakistan have also struggled against fast, short-pitched bowling, even in St Lucia, where Australia's pace attack knocked them over. So Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn are likely to again be the central planks in their side's plans to get through.

Team news

Pakistan are unlikely to tinker much with a line-up that did so well in the field against New Zealand. In fact, the right balance in their attack finally seems to have been struck, four games into the tournament. With few batting replacements, Afridi will desperately hope one of his batsmen other than Butt can kick on, though dropping Mohammad Hafeez and bringing in Khalid Latif may be an option.

Pakistan (probable) 1 Salman Butt 2 Kamran Akmal (wk) 3 Mohammad Hafeez/Khalid Latif 4 Umar Akmal 5 Misbah-ul-Haq 6 Shahid Afridi (capt) 7 Abdul Razzaq 8 Mohammad Aamer 9 Mohammad Sami 10 Abdur Rehman 11 Saeed Ajmal

Though South Africa are still likelier to use pace to unsettle Pakistan's batsmen, the nature of the pitch might warrant a return for Roelof van der Merwe, though he is wicketless thus far in the tournament. Their top order has struggled too, and whether or not the ageing, misfiring Herschelle Gibbs will continue to be persisted with is also open to question.

South Africa (probable) 1 Graeme Smith (capt) 2 Jacques Kallis 3 Loots Bosman/Herschelle Gibbs 4 AB de Villiers 5 JP Duminy 6 JA Morkel 7 MV Boucher (wk) 8 J Botha 9 Dale Steyn 10 Morne Morkel 11 Charl Langeveldt

Pitch and conditions

There won't be as much bounce or pace as in Barbados, though the express bowlers have still prospered in St Lucia.

Stats and trivia

  • South Africa's batsmen have scored only one half-century between them through the tournament: predictably, it came from the bat of Jacques Kallis.

  • Widely thought to be out of place in this format before the tournament, Salman Butt is the tournament's second-highest run-getter with 189, behind Mahela Jayawardene (before the West Indies-India and Australia-Sri Lanka games on May 9)

    Quotes

    "My performance is always very key as captain but this time I haven't performed so maybe that's why we haven't had a good result."
    Shahid Afridi tells it like it is in a tournament where he has scored 53 runs and taken three wickets

    "We proved against New Zealand that we can play to a certain level and be difficult to beat. It is about us regrouping mentally, making sure that tomorrow we work out what went wrong and try and put it right against Pakistan."
    Graeme Smith knows what his side needs to do against Pakistan

  • Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

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    Osman SamiuddinClose
    Osman Samiuddin Osman spent the first half of his life pretending he discovered reverse swing with a tennis ball half-covered with electrical tape. The second half of his life was spent trying, and failing, to find spiritual fulfillment in the world of Pakistani advertising and marketing. The third half of his life will be devoted to convincing people that he did discover reverse swing. And occasionally writing about cricket. And learning mathematics.
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