The visiting side won the first T20I despite not being at their best, which will give them added confidence
It’s difficult to establish whether the nail-biting nature of the first T20I was about as good as this hollowed South African unit can produce, or the harbinger of a tremendously competitive T20I series. South Africa would brush off the loss of most of their best players, especially with the bat, blasting to 188, with those who stood in for the likes of Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen more than justifying their places, and possibly even giving the selectors a headache ahead of the T20 World Cup. It was telling, though, that the death bowling couldn’t drive home a victory from an especially favourable situation, which makes one wonder about their ability to be competitive when a bigger effort might be needed from them.
South Africa’s problem is they need to ensure their top five bat as many overs as possible, even as they continue to take the risks necessary to push their batting totals past 200. All of this against an outstanding Pakistan bowling attack, who will be raring to hit the heights after an uncharacteristically poor bowling performance at The Wanderers. With George Linde coming in as early as number six and, Andile Phehlukwayo aside, limited big hitting lower down, South Africa will have to find a way to extract the best of both worlds from the top order. And while they just about managed it in the first game, it’s unclear whether that’s sustainable over a four-match series.
Pakistan should both be upset at a poor overall performance, and glad they managed to win despite being so far off their best with both bat and ball. While that might have been a record chase, it needed the rescue act of a red-hot Mohammad Rizwan and a carefree lower order, with most of the big guns up top and through the middle failing to take control of the game. Even if they had lost that game, Pakistan might have been confident they could outlast this South African side over a long series. Now that they go into Monday’s contest with a series lead, that belief will be iron-clad.
Much of the debate around Pakistan centres on the personnel, and sequence, of the top order, Fakhar Zaman batting anywhere apart from the top feels weird, especially in a T20I, and with Rizwan in the form he is, Babar Azam could swap places with the destructive left-hander. Sharjeel Khan remains a potent option waiting in the wings, though with Rizwan in the form he is, places in Pakistan’s top order are fiercely competitive.
Pakistan WLWWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa LWLLL
In the spotlight
Heinrich Klaasen appeared to struggle with a foot injury following a blow sustained en route to the destructive half-century he scored on Friday, but if fit, his contributions remain pivotal to South Africa’s fledgling middle order. It was no coincidence Pakistan managed to find a way to put the handbrake on after the wicketkeeper batsman was dismissed, with South Africa failing to find a boundary between overs 14 to 19, derailing an innings that looked set to surpass 200. With the lower middle order light on the kind of power hitters South Africa will need, the importance of contributions from the top order, and Klaasen lower down, is even more magnified.
Usman Qadir‘s long flowing locks shouldn’t have anything to do with his ability to bowl legspin, but having shaved them off before the first T20I, he did perhaps turn in the worst performance of his career. Looking to cement his role as the clear frontrunner for that position ahead of the waning Shadab Khan, 38 in three wretched overs was an inauspicious start. It’s difficult to see him suffering an outing as indifferent as that on Monday. Qadir remains of the canniest problem-solvers in this Pakistan side. Should he be anywhere near his best, South Africa will have one further problem to worry about.
Sisanda Magala and Linde were the only South Africans to have notably poor games, so South Africa are unlikely to ring in the changes. Kyle Verreynne, surprisingly left out for the first game, could come in, but if van der Dussen remains unfit, an unchanged eleven might not be a surprise either.
South Africa (possible): 1 Janneman Malan 2 Aiden Markram 3 Pite van Biljon 4 Kyle Verreynne/Rassie van der Dussen 5 Heinrich Klaasen (capt & wk) 6 Andile Phehlukwayo 7 George Linde/ Wiaan Mulder 8 Beuran Hendricks 9 Lizaad Williams 10 Tabraiz Shamsi 11 Sisanda Magala
Fakhar Zaman may well open this time around, but Pakistan are expected to go in unchanged.
Pakistan (likely): 1 Fakhar Zaman 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk) 3 Babar Azam (capt) 4 Haider Ali 5 Mohammad Hafeez 6 Mohammad Nawaz 7 Faheem Ashraf 8 Hasan Ali 9 Shaheen Afridi 10 Haris Rauf 11 Usman Qadir
Pitch and conditions
Clear blue skies are expected for much of the week, so weather shouldn’t play a part. With high scores often chased down at The Wanderers, the side winning the toss might opt to field first on this occasion.
Stats and trivia
- With the exception of Mohammad Sami (8.41), Haris Rauf (9.21) and Hasan Ali (8.37) have worse T20I economy rates than any Pakistan bowler to have taken at least 10 wickets in the format.
- Andile Phehlukwayo needs four more wickets to leapfrog Wayne Parnell into third place for the all-time T20I wicket-takers for South Africa.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000