Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Start time 1800 local (1600GMT)
The South African half of the four-match Twenty20 home and away series between these two teams has arrived but the promise it could have been accompanied with, has not. Pakistan were outplayed in the UAE, in both matches, although the result of the second's suggested it was much closer than it really was.
Batting collapses at the top and tail of their innings have left Pakistan with plenty of repair work to do. They spent two days after their arrival in South Africa training at the Wanderers but decided to take the day before the match off. Still, they've had more preparation time than South Africa, who only regrouped on Tuesday.
South Africa could afford to take the extra day off. They don't have many areas of concern with a batting order that is settling into its roles and bowlers firing even in conditions that are unfamiliar to them. Their main conundrum ahead of the match has been caused by a case of too much choice and they will have to decide who to leave out.
While the hosts will aim for consolidation of the gains they have made in the shortest format with an eye on the No. 1 ranking, the visiting team will focus on rectifying their mistakes, the weather could have other plans. Rain is forecast throughout Wednesday for Johannesburg.
(Last five completed games, most recent first)
South Africa WWLWW
In the spotlight
Pakistan's batting has been their Achilles' Heel throughout the series against South Africa and it's not going to get any easier for them. The conditions and the opponent's attack on their home turf will mean Pakistan's line-up have to brace themselves against the short ball. The Wanderers track will facilitate good bounce and carry, Dale Steyn and co will be baying for blood and Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad and Mohammad Hafeez will have to have made swift improvements to play the pull shot. All three have been susceptible to getting out when it's banged in short and will have to ensure they are better equipped for what could be a barrage in South Africa.
With Mohammad Irfan ruled out of the tour, Pakistan will have to look for other quick options. Junaid Khan and Sohail Tanvir will do the bulk of the seam-bowling duties and they will have to make a decision on whether to include Anwar Ali - who also offers a bit with the bat down the order - or hand Bilawal Bhatti, who has only played 10 T20 games domestically, a debut.
Shoaib Malik will not be able to bolster the middle order after he was ruled out of the series with a finger injury. That will open the door for either Umar Amin or Asad Shafiq. There's not too much else Pakistan can do. Hafeez will likely not fancy opening against Steyn which may give Nasir Jamshed another opportunity. Abdul Razzaq has also been ruled out of the series with a hamstring niggle.
Pakistan: (likely) 1 Nasir Jamshed, 2 Ahmed Shehzad, 3 Mohammad Hafeez (capt), 4 Sohaib Maqsood 5 Asad Shafiq/Umar Amin, 6 Umar Akmal (wk), 7 Shahid Afridi, 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Saeed Ajmal, 10 Junaid Khan, 11 Bilawal Bhatti/Anwar Ali
With an unchanged squad, South Africa will use this as another opportunity to try different combinations. If they choose to retain Henry Davids, he should bat higher up the order than he did in Dubai. Hashim Amla may be rested as a result. JP Duminy could slot back into the middle order but it may be difficult to make room for Morne Morkel unless one of Wayne Parnell or Lonwabo Tsotsobe sits out. On surfaces that are unlikely to offer much to the spinners, South Africa my opt for the holding spinner in Aaron Phangiso.
South Africa: (likely) 1 Henry Davids/Hashim Amla 2 Quinton de Kock (wk) 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 JP Duminy 6 David Miller, 7 Ryan McLaren, 8 Wayne Parnell/Morne Morkel, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Lonwabo Tsotsobe 11 Imran Tahir/Aaron Phangiso
The Wanderers has a reputation for bounce and carry but has also provided some of the best surfaces for batsmen. It has a fairly even record in T20s with the team batting first winning nine of the 20 matches played here.
Stats and trivia
- Despite a lean patch in Tests and ODIs, Faf du Plessis is the sixth-highest run-scorer in T20s this year, 76 runs behind the leader, Ahmed Shehzad.
"When team management decided to rest a couple of the senior players, it provided opportunities and I think that a lot of the players have responded positively to that."
Ryan McLaren believes the absence of the likes of Graeme Smith and Jacques Kallis and the rotation of bowlers has helped South Africa explore its depth.
"We are just resting."
Moin Khan, Pakistan's team manager gave a simple answer for Pakistan's decision to take Tuesday off.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent