The end of South Africa's summer is approaching and they have everything to play for. Although victory in the fourth and final T20I against Pakistan won't give them a second trophy this season, it will mean they will share the spoils in a series where they were without seven first-choice players, and could be a reason to go into the winter with at least some satisfaction after another tough period.
South Africa started the season with defeat against England in their first bio-secure fixtures, then beat a depleted Sri Lanka, before losing to Pakistan, away and at home. Their rebuilding phase has settled into a semi-permanence of sorts, with continued experimentation in personnel and combinations. One thing they seem to have discovered is that teams they put onto the field regularly compete, even if they don't win.
For Pakistan, that's an interesting consideration because they have brought their best and they have been challenged. They will take comfort from knowing they have come out on top and will want to seal the deal with a T20I series win to add to their ODI trophy. It's no small accomplishment to win in South Africa, and to do it across formats is something they will be aiming for.
To achieve that, they will want to tighten up on their bowling in the early part of the innings against an opening pair with little to lose. Aiden Markram was not even supposed to play in this series but then captain Temba Bavuma got injured, while Janneman Malan found himself warming in the bench until the five IPL-bound players had left. In the third match, Pakistan conceded 65 runs against these two in the powerplay, the most they have leaked in that period since 2007.
Though they have routinely pulled South Africa back, twice in this series Pakistan have had to chase record targets. A more disciplined bowling effort upfront will avoid that becoming three times. South Africa have the opposite problem. They are trying to perfect their death bowling to avoid letting Pakistan get completely away from them.
Both sides will want more from their middle orders, if needs be, with Pakistan heavily reliant on their top three and South Africa carrying a long tail. In that sense, they have some similarities across their squads, which is what has made for such an entertaining and engaging contest, which is perfectly poised for a grand finale in the fourth T20I.
(last five completed matches, most recent first) South Africa LWLLW Pakistan WLWWL
In the spotlight
Instead of marking his run-up with his initials, Lizaad Williams writes the words "thank you" on the grass in a show of gratitude to a game which has given him a career. Now, he has the chance to ensure it's an international career he continues to have. He is the series' leading wicket-taker and although his economy of 9.12 might read a tad high, among seamers only Hasan Ali has been less expensive. Williams has been identified as a death-bowling prospect and although South Africa also have Sisanda Magala in that role, with Andile Phehlukwayo not being used, Williams could make a big statement in the final game.
South Africa probably can't wait to see the back of Mohammad Rizwan, who has been a nemesis to them all summer, at home and away, and the Pakistan opener probably wishes he could play against them forever. Rizwan has scored a Test and a T20I century, and three T20I fifties against South Africa since February. His T20I average against them is 74.60, almost double his overall average of 38.64. Although he played a supporting role to his captain Babar Azam in the third T20I, his contribution was crucial to ensuring Pakistan cannot lose the series and he has the chance for a last hurrah against his favourite opponents.
If South Africa make any changes, they are most likely to be in the bowling department after Boucher confirmed that Kyle Verreynne was included as a back-up wicketkeeper. Lutho Sipamla could come into contention, most likely at the expense of Beuran Hendricks, who has been expensive.
South Africa (possible): 1 Aiden Markram, 2 Janneman Malan, 3 Rassie van der Dussen, 4 Pite van Biljon, 5 Heinrich Klaasen (wk), 6 George Linde, 7 Andile Phehlukwayo, 8 Sisanda Magala, 9 Beuran Hendricks/Lutho Sipamla, 10 Lizaad Williams, 11 Tabraiz Shamsi
Barring any more allergic reactions, Pakistan should remain unchanged with Azam and Mohammad Rizwan opening the batting and Fakhar Zaman to come in at No.3. Usman Qadir may not be able to find his way back in just yet with Mohammad Nawaz doing the spin duties among four quicks.
Pakistan (possible): 1 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 2 Babar Azam (capt), 3 Fakhar Zaman, 4 Mohammad Hafeez, 5 Haider Ali, 6 Asif Ali, 7 Mohammad Nawaz, 8 Faheem Ashraf, 9 Hasan Ali, 10 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 11 Haris Rauf
Pitch and conditions
After the run-fest of the third T20I and Heinrich Klaasen's admission that defending a score is difficult in Centurion, it's safe to say we can expect more runs. South Africa's Indian summer continues with mid-April temperatures in the upper 20s and and the thunderstorms put on pause until the spring.
Stats and trivia
Pakistan have not lost a T20I match at SuperSport Park, winning on all three occasions they've played there.
Aiden Markram has joined Hashim Amla as the only two South African batters to score three fifties in consecutive men's T20I games. If he repeats the feat in this game, he will equal Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle's record of four successive fifties.
"We went from an absolute high three days ago to last night. The realisation that it's T20 cricket and when things go bad, it can look really bad. And I'm not making any excuses. As quickly as it can happen, it can turn around again. If we arrive with the right attitude and control what we can control - which is attitude, intensity, the energy we bring - things can turn around very quickly. South Africa's head coach Mark Boucher believes fortunes can change quickly in T20 cricket