The temperature has hit mid-20s over the last two days in England’s capital, succinctly put into context by two Pakistani expats near St. John’s Wood: “It’s heating up, finally.” Where Londoners are rejoicing in this pleasant spell of sunshine, Pakistan’s cricketers are not finding the rise in temperature very enjoyable. There are better times to get a week off during a tournament than after a defeat to India. The past five days have seen the emergence of stories ranging from an organised party on the eve of the India game to the team’s unhealthy eating habits. Former cricketers have ranted on television channels while fans have invaded players’ privacy in shopping malls and eating joints.
With three defeats and one wash-out from five games, Pakistan are clutching at straws and, unsurprisingly, at the enduring parallels to 1992. These are different times of course, however, the sight of South Africa, in a worse state of disarray, affords Sarfaraz Ahmed a reason to custom order those tiger-print t-shirts after all. Anything with a potential to trigger a reaction from this team, which now needs four wins on the bounce after winning an exact number of games from their last 24 ODIs is perhaps worth investing in.
Faf du Plessis’s side is facing a similar predicament, although he remained unaware of the mathematics that was keeping his team alive in the World Cup in the aftermath of that gut-wrenching loss to New Zealand. He spoke of having aged over the course of a game, about post-tournament review, road maps for the future and even endorsed Rassie van der Dussen’s leadership potential. In many ways, South Africa are staring down at a fresh start for the next World Cup in a game that could rubber-stump their exit out of this.
In Aiden Markram, Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Andile Phehlukwayo, they have a core to feel positive about. Shortage of talent, if at all, is in the abject lack of match-winners with the bat. Incidentally, that is a trait shared by their opponents on Sunday. Which makes this fixture rather straightforward to call: The team prone prone to fewer batting insecurities will walk out of Lord’s with slightly renewed hope. The other will start numbering its days in England.
When: South Africa vs Pakistan, CWC19, June 23, 10:30 Local, 15:00 IST
Where: Lord’s, London
What to expect: A bright and sunny day in London with a high of 26 degrees Celsius. ODI pitches at Lord’s can go either way. Take the last two played here. One had England bowled out for 153 by a Kagiso Rabada burst, the other had them score 322 despite Kuldeep Yadav finding purchase. This pitch resembles the former, with a generous tinge of green that is bound to keep both fragile batting line-ups on their toes.
Pakistan have a tendency to overreact to defeats against India, but even otherwise, this side is ripe for a re-jig. Shoaib Malik, with scores of 8, 0 and 0 in the tournament so far, is likely to be moved on. Haris Sohai is likely to be reintegrated into the line-up. Meanwhile, Hasan Ali has been a shadow of his former self, having taken his two wickets at an average of 128 and an economy of 7.76. Young Mohammad Hasnain waits in the wings.
Probable XI: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Haris Sohail, Sarfaraz Ahmed (c&wk), Imad Wasim/Asif Ali, Wahaz Riaz, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali/Mohammd Hasnain
South Africa do not have much in the name of bench strength to bring on and significantly improve their playing XI. Andile Phehlukwayo had an off day with the ball against New Zealand but has otherwise been one of the few shining lights of a forgettable campaign so far. A game for Dwaine Pretorius therefore looks unlikely. South Africa could field the same XI.
Probable XI: Quinton de Kock (wk), Hashim Amla, Aiden Markram, Faf du Plessis (c), Rassie van der Dussen, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Chris Morris, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Imran Tahir
Did you know?
– Pakistan hold a 5-1 advantage over South Africa in ICC tournaments since 2009.
– South Africa have lost eight wickets in the PowerPlay – the most – and also have the worst PowerPlay run-rate (3.88) in the tournament so far
– Imran Tahir (37 wickets from 19 games) needs two more wickets to surpass Allan Donald (38 wickets from 25 games) as the leading wicket-taker for South Africa in World Cups.
What they said:
“We’ve sort of tried to sort of put all our focus completely on to us going forward. And if there’s an outside chance of qualifying that’ll be incredible. But we’ve done our bit of sulking and moping around. The energies now since we’ve been here has been really good. The families arrived yesterday so the guys are feeling slightly more refreshed and ready for the next three games.” – Aiden Markram on South Africa looking ahead to the rest of the tournament.
“I’ve always maintained that cricket is a sport that takes you up one day and brings you down the other. I try not to change the way I react to it. I can assure that we’ll give our 100 percent on the field for the remainder of the games” – Sarfaraz Ahmedon the change of ODI fortunes since winning the 2017 Champions Trophy.