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Dangerous Proteas aim to pile more misery on toothless Pakistan

Last updated on 26 Oct 2023 | 01:53 PM
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Dangerous Proteas aim to pile more misery on toothless Pakistan

Pakistan are coming off a loss to Afghanistan at the same venue and would do well to know that their campaign will be in danger if they fail to crack the South African code on Friday

Pakistan and South Africa sit at the contrasting corners of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2023. Pakistan’s strongest suit - their bowling - has cost them their dignity, with none of Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, or Shadab Khan raising their hands up for a decent campaign. So much so that, PCB released a statement on Thursday, asking their fans to rally behind their teams, but being cryptic about Babar Azam’s captaincy future.

On the other hand, South African batters have combined to send shivers down the spines of opposition sides in their campaign already. If you need validation of their dominance - the win margins of 102, 134, 229, and 149 runs tell you how utterly authoritative they have been. From the top with Quinton de Kock to the end with Heinrich Klassen, there is a systematic bludgeoning that is running on autopilot. Never ever have South Africa seemed this domineering in a World Cup, notwithstanding the fact that they lost to the Netherlands already. 

Could there be a different narrative in Chepauk? It’s a venue that supports spinners, but if you are patient enough, there are runs to be scored. But Pakistan are coming off a loss to Afghanistan at the same venue a couple of nights ago and would do well to know that their campaign will be in danger if they fail to crack the South African code on Friday (October 27). 

Things to watch out for 

Is it possible to contain South Africa at the death?

With Heinrich Klassen manning the death overs with the bat, the Saffers have found a solid disposition towards bowlers in the last 10 overs. They have scored 137, 79, 143, and 144 runs, respectively, in the last 10 overs of the last four completed innings, indicating a strong suit and why they have become one of the most-feared sides in the World Cup at the moment. Those four matches yielded them 428/7, 311/7, 399/7 and 382/5. 

Sure, they played three of those games in Mumbai and Delhi - two of the most favourable batting venues in the World Cup - and replicating those performances at the MA Chidambaram Stadium won’t be an easy task for South Africa. With Pakistan currently going through a trepidation crisis, you can only challenge the perception with a strong performance. And in the moment, South Africa seems well-positioned to take the benefit of the same.

Babar’s spin struggles expose Pakistan big-time

King Babar? Well, it hasn’t been anything but that. Babar Azam, stepping feet in India for the first time, was supposed to dominate the show, but all he has done is score 157 runs at an ordinary average of 31.40 and a strike rate of 79.69. His biggest bugbear has been his struggle against spin, averaging 27 with a strike rate of 60.9 against the slow bowlers.

Spinners have accounted for his wicket thrice in this World Cup already, making him the holder of the second-worst strike rate and worst balls/boundary (33.3) against spin in this World Cup, with the filter of a minimum of 100 balls faced. That isn’t encouraging, is it? Against South Africa, unless he raises the game by a substantial margin, there will be a big question mark on his legacy.

Could Pakistan raise their powerplay game?

Pakistan have never been known for their success in the powerplay, but this World Cup has exposed their frailties by some margin. As Hardik Worah discussed in his analysis, Pakistan openers Imam-ul-Haq and Abdullah Shafique not being aggressive enough in the powerplay, ensuring Pakistan have the fourth-worst scoring rate (5.1) and second-worst boundary percentage (58.04%) in the first 10 overs.

Amongst openers who have faced at least 100 deliveries in the powerplay, Imam (7.8) and Shafique (7.7) have the worst balls/boundary ratio. In a tournament where the volume of runs has defined the contest, could Pakistan be more resilient and authoritative? Before the tournament grips away from their clutch, they need to figure this out very soon.

Tactical Insights 

> Heinrich Klassen is an excellent player of pace and spin, as no player has a better strike rate than him against pacers and spinners in ODIs this year. However, he has been dismissed five times against short and back-of-length deliveries pitching outside the off-stump line in ODIs this year, and three of them have come in CWC 2023.

> Among batters who have played at least 30 deliveries in the last 10 overs of the innings, David Miller has the best balls per dismissal after his teammate, Marco Jansen. However, Miller has played more than 70% of the balls faced on the off-side but has been destructive on the leg side, where his SR is close to 300, double his SR on the other side. So Pakistan will have to tread carefully.

Venue and Conditions 

In ODIs, the teams batting first have had a great advantage at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, something that would entice South Africa, for they have cracked the batting-first code like none else. 

The average first-innings score at this venue has been around 260, whereas the average first-innings winning score has been around 280 since 2021. Pacers have taken more wickets than spinners at this venue, but spinners have been slightly more economical than pacers.

Probable XIs

Pakistan will go ahead with an unchanged playing XI even though the middle-order has failed to put their hands up. 

Predicted XI: Abdullah Shafique, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam (c), Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Saud Shakeel, Iftikhar Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Usama Mir, Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali, Haris Rauf

South Africa will welcome back their skipper Temba Bavuma, who missed a couple of matches due to illness. Aiden Markram led the team beautifully, but Bavuma’s leadership has been inspirational. If he comes back, Reeza Hendricks will make way.

Predicted XI: Quinton de Kock (wk), Temba Bavuma, Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram (c), Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller, Marco Jansen, Gerald Coetzee, Keshav Maharaj, Kagiso Rabada, Lizaad Williams

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