South Africa will take on Pakistan in the opening encounter of the three-match ODI series at the SuperSport Park in Centurion this Friday.
The Proteas will be resuming their long-standing rivalry against the Asian giants in the 50-over version of the international game.
Historically, the South Africans have enjoyed a wood over the Pakistanis in the ODIs, winning 50, losing only 28 of the 79 matches, including one no result. They’ve played against Pakistan since rejoining international cricket after the end of the apartheid era back in 1992.
Pakistan will be disappointed with the record, which remains poor, when we account for the ODI matches played against South Africa in South Africa. They’ve won only 12 and lost 21 of their 34 ODIs versus the Proteas in their own den.
Since the start of 2010, a decade in which Pakistan have travelled more to South Africa, their record has gotten better. Pakistan have won 6 and lost 7 of their 13 ODIs played against South Africa in this period.
The upcoming ODI series, where matches will be played on April 2, 4 and 7 in Centurion and Johannesburg, is part of the 13-team ICC Super League, determining qualification spots for the 2023 World Cup. South Africa are yet to kickstart their campaign in the league, while Pakistan have only played three matches, winning two and losing one.
Therefore, both the teams will be geared up for an important series through which they can grab crucial Super League points and continue from strength to strength towards the next World Cup in India.
Babar Azam the Pakistan captain is one of the ODI batting greats of the modern-day game. Azam has now played 77 ODIs in his career with 3,580 runs, including twelve hundreds and sixteen half-centuries, at a fantastic average of 55.93 and strike-rate of 87.87. In Pakistan’s previous one-day series versus Zimbabwe as well, Azam was in stellar form. He made 221 runs from his three innings, including a hundred and a fifty. Appointed captain across all formats now, Babar will be determined to help Pakistan overcome the Proteas challenge.
Shaheen Afridi has become a leader of Pakistan’s bowling attack at a very young age. The 20-year-old left-arm speedster has featured in 22 ODI matches and taken 45 wickets at an average of 21.64, while bowling his overs at an economy rate of 5.29. Pakistan depends a lot on Shaheen to perform at different stages of an innings, especially in the first powerplay and the death-overs. The talented fast-bowler will be looking forward to the series on South African shores, where surfaces offering pace and bounce should suit him.
Quinton de Kock the South African captain, will be eyeing a solid start to his team’s ICC Super League campaign. The wicketkeeper-batsman, who opens the innings and balances the side with his glovework, has been a vital cog in Proteas’ wheels over the years. De Kock boasts of a fantastic record in ODI cricket. He has now scored 5,135 runs, including 15 hundreds and 25 fifties, from his 121 matches in the format at an average of 44.65 while maintaining a fantastic strike-rate of 94.84. He is considered one of the most dangerous limited-overs batsmen at the highest level.
Kagiso Rabada is one of the world’s most feared pacemen. The tall, express right-arm quick has been lethal with the ball at the international stage. Rabada has a stellar record to his name in ODIs. He has taken 117 wickets from his 75 ODIs at an average of 27.34 while bowling his overs at an economy rate of just 4.99. The 25-year-old speedster’s ODI career tally includes 6 four-wicket hauls and one five-wicket haul. Rabada will be raring to perform and leave his mark in the series against Pakistan before he flies over to India for the IPL 2021.
Asian teams usually take time to get going when they travel to play overseas. Pakistan’s challenge is to reverse that trend in what will be a short three-match ODI series.
While the conditions will be unfamiliar, they do have cause to be optimistic as their opponent aren’t going through the best of times as an international side.
Following the retirement of some of their stalwarts, South Africa is currently in transition, with the youngsters carrying forward the side’s responsibility while still finding their feet at the highest level as players.
The situation isn’t that different for Pakistan, who also have a mix of young talents asked to perform the problematic roles in either department.
Among the senior pros, the focus will be on how the likes of Azam and De Kock stand-up to the challenge as captains and players for what should be an interesting series.
Playing in home conditions, the South Africans will have a slight advantage.