CAPE TOWN: Pakistan and South Africa will battle it out in what promises to be a thrilling finale with the series on the line in the fifth and final One-day International here at Newlands on Wednesday.
“If we have Lungi Ngidi, Kagiso Rabada and Dale Steyn all in our attack then it’s an option to just play six batsmen. But if one of them is not there, then we need to re-look the six-batsmen strategy. It’s pretty obvious to me that we possibly need another batsman or all-rounder,” Du Plessis had said after the fourth ODI.
With the series level at 2-2, Pakistan eye their second successive ODI series triumph on South African soil. Veteran all-rounder Shoaib Malik will once again lead his side in absence of captain Sarfraz Ahmed, who has been suspended after his racist taunt aimed at Andile Phehlukwayo during the second ODI in Durban.
Fast bowlers will again be in the spotlight but spinners might well come into play at Newlands, with the surface expected to have something in it for the slow bowlers. Pakistan became the first Asian side to register an ODI series win in South Africa in 2013 and back-to-back series wins will certainly help the team, especially after an abysmal Test series, where they were whitewashed 3-0.
Pakistan do not hold an impress ODI record against South Africa at Newlands. The tourists have lost four out of the five matches they have featured against the hosts at the venue. However, Malik and his men can be encouraged by the fact that Pakistan, on their last tour to South Africa in 2013, won the ODI against the home team at this venue by 23 runs.
Leg-spinner Shadab Khan along with pacers Shaheen Shah Afridi and Usman Shinwari have been the in-form bowlers for Pakistan but it’s the batting department which will be a worry for head coach Mickey Arthur. Left-handed opener Imam-ul-Haq has been the standout performer of the series so far with two half-centuries and a century to his name but the likes of Mohammad Hafeez, a veteran of 207 ODIs, and young Babar Azam have failed to make the most of their starts.
Meanwhile, South Africa have called up young all-rounder Wiaan Mulder to the squad.
The 20-year-old Mulder, who has played seven ODIs, recently returned from an ankle injury — and took 10 wickets in three four-day franchise series games for the Lions and also struck 146 against the Knights in Bloemfontein last week.
Home team captain Faf du Plessis in the meantime is looking to sort out his team’s combinations ahead of the World Cup.
South Africa’s batting has been prone to collapses and that is something the skipper will be mindful of. While the likes of Rassie van der Dussen, Reeza Hendricks and batting maestro Hashim Amla have been among the runs, form of big guns like Quinton de Kock and David Miller is a worry for the home side.
SOUTH AFRICA: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wicket-keeper), Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Imran Tahir, Aiden Markram, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Kagiso Rabada, Tabraiz Shamsi, Dale Steyn, Rassie van der Dussen, Wiaan Mulder
PAKISTAN: Imam-ul-Haq, Shan Masood, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Rizwan (wicket-keeper), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Fakhar Zaman, Faheem Ashraf, Hussain Talat.