Consistency, momentum in mind – South Africa, Pakistan reignite international rivalry
March 1, 2020. South Africa beat Pakistan in the group stages of the T20 World Cup at the Sydney Showground Stadium. The Proteas by the virtue of their better position in the table cruised to the next round despite having their final game washed out. Pakistan, owing to their two losses and an abandoned game against Thailand crashed out.
Fast forward to January 20, 2021, the two teams resume their international rivalry in a six-match limited-overs series with the first ODI at the Kingsmead Stadium in Durban. In between the world has seen a lot, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that halted the entire sporting universe.
Like the biggies in world cricket, South Africa too would have had their share of cricket post-COVID-19 but saw their series against England and West Indies cancelled due to the pandemic. With no international cricket for so long, the series also serves as an opportunity for both the teams to test themselves ahead of a busy 2021 which also includes the World Cup qualifier, in which Pakistan will be featuring, in July.
“When you look around the world, Australia‚ New Zealand and England have already played a bit of cricket,” South Africa coach Hilton Moreeng said earlier. “It is an opportunity for us also to play cricket in a very important World Cup year.” The series will also provide the team to see where they are in terms of performance in ODIs in the lead up to the World Cup in 2022.
However, the hosts will be missing the services of regular skipper Dane van Niekerk and allrounder Chloe Tryon, who have been ruled out due to injuries. Sune Luus will be leading the side in the absence of van Niekerk.
With Luus having previous experience leading the side, the role is nothing new to her but this series will be a challenge of how she evolves as a skipper. Laura Wolvaardt, in the absence of Van Niekerk, will play a big role along with Lizelle Lee at the top.
Mignon du Preez, Trisha Chetty, Marizanne Kapp and Nadine de Klerk look certain to make it to the playing XI on Wednesday, but it would be interesting to see if Lara Goodall finds a slot. Shabnim Ismail will be spearheading the pace attack along with Masabata Klaas, who had a brilliant Women’s Super League recently.
On the other hand, opener Javeria Khan will lead the Pakistan side in the absence of Bismah Maroof who opted out of the tour due to family reasons. Kainat Imtiaz – player of the tournament at the National Triangular T20 Championship – makes a return to the squad along with Ayesha Zafar, Nahida Khan and Nashra Sandhu.
Nahida was the leading run-scorer in the tournament with 154 runs to her name, while Zafar scored 111 runs. The last time Pakistan visited South Africa was in 2019, where they tied the ODI series 1-1 while losing the T20I series 3-2 despite leading 2-0 at one point in time.
The series will also throw a challenge for newly appointed head coach David Hemp, for whom this is going to be his first big assignment. The former Bermuda player, who has coached in Australia before, stated that the focus been on maintaining consistency and wants players to take more accountability of themselves.
With a poor national T20 Championship, opener Muneeba Ali will look to be back among runs with Nahida expectedly at the top. Javeria is likely to come at no.3 with Omaima Sohail, Sidra Nawaz and Nida Dar managing the middle order.
Diana Bag will spearhead the pace attack along with Fatima Sana and Kainat Imtiaz in company while the spin department is expected to have Nashra Sandhu, Dar, Anam Amin. Well, it is still to be seen what playing XIs the captains select for the first ODI on Wednesday, but above the most interesting aspect would the challenging fight between the two teams that the audience are going to expect.
South Africa: Sune Luus (C), Laura Wolvaardt, Trisha Chetty, Mignon du Preez, Shabnim Ismail, Lizelle Lee, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Nadine de Klerk, Tumi Sekhukhune, Sinalo Jafta, Marizanne Kapp, Lara Goodall, Nondumiso Shangase, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Faye Tunnicliffe, Anneke Bosch, Tazmin Brits.
Pakistan: Javeria Khan (c), Aimen Anwar, Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Ayesha Naseem, Ayesha Zafar, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Kainat Imtiaz, Muneeba Ali, Nahida Khan, Nashra Sandhu, Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Sadia Iqbal, Sidra Nawaz (wk) and Syeda Aroob Shah