Favourites South Africa wary of Pakistan’s ability to fight back in ‘Black Day’ ODI
Pakistan have beaten South Africa only four times in 22 ODIs, apart from a tied affair. With 16 wins from 22 matches, the hosts, clearly, are the stronger side, and yet in the build-up to the series, Pakistan were expected to challenge the hosts with their newfound confidence from their last visit to the Rainbow Nation.
In the first ODI, with Pakistan struggling at 137 for eight chasing a target of 201, it looked like South Africa’s status as the superior team would come through, once again. But they barely managed to stop an enterprising 60-run ninth-wicket partnership between Nida Dar and Diana Baig and sneaked home by three runs.
Ahead of the first match, skipper Sune Luus acknowledged Pakistan’s effort during their last visit in 2019, but said that South Africa have evolved as an ODI side in the last two years and the players have grown so much over these two years.
Luus talked about having enough depth in the squad to overcome the absence of Dane van Niekerk and Chloe Tryon. “Obviously not having our captain and vice-captain on tour is not ideal. But luckily, we have depth in the youngsters coming through and we have a couple of experienced players that’s also hungry to take the responsibility,” she had said.
This faith in youngsters came to the fore while defending a score like 200 on a slower Durban pitch as debutant Nonkululeko Mlaba restricted Pakistan in the middle overs with an impressive spell of 19 for one from her ten overs and Luus trusting allrounder Nadine de Klerk to bowl the last over ahead of the experienced Marizanne Kapp.
South Africa will be looking to seal the series when they take on the visitors at the Kingsmead in Durban again on Saturday (January 23). The ODI will also be a special occasion for the hosts as they will be sporting a black jersey to create awareness about gender-based violence against women in the country.
Luus, who didn’t have a great first match – failing with the bat and bowling a solitary over, will be hoping for the top-order that includes her to come good and provide them with a good start. South Africa would also want their batters to build on the starts they got. Laura Wolvaardt was out for 40 in the opening game, while Lara Goodall and Mignon du Preez went after scoring 20s.
But it won’t be easy, Baig has been the most impressive Pakistan player on display during the first ODI. Her bowling with the new ball was sensational. She was also impressive on the field on a day where so many catches were put down. Fielding is one area South Africa also will have to work on as they were lucky to get away with a win despite all the dropped catches.
It was expected that Pakistan skipper Javeria Khan will shoulder the extra burden of batting in the absence of Bismah Maroof, but she didn’t have the greatest of games with the bat. Come the second match, she will be looking to lead the batting line-up on a surface, which going by the indication of the first ODI, might suit Pakistan’s batting. Khan will also be hoping for the young players in the squad to fulfil the promise they had shown in recent times.
“We can’t deny the fact that she’s (Maroof) not around and it gives an opportunity to the younger lot to step up and play their part and give their best in the absence of her and cement the place. We have a young dynamic squad, less experienced, but they are a young and enthusiastic squad and quite eager to perform and learn from the series,” Khan said before the series started.
The pitches have been a talking point ahead of the series, with not much cricket played on them and hot weather it was predicted the surfaces could be slower and help Pakistan’s spinners. Although Baig was superlative with her pace bowling and the experienced Ismail responded with a commanding reply, spinners could still play a role in the second match.
Tumi Sekhukhune and de Klerk bowled their full quota of overs in the first match, while Pakistan used the medium-pacer Aliya Riaz only for a single over. It remains to be seen if either side would want to bring in an extra spinner or whether the hosts be happy with their medium pacers bowling a lot of off-pace deliveries and making good use of cutters.
South Africa: Sune Luus (C), Laura Wolvaardt, Trisha Chetty (wk), 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