DURBAN -Former captain AB de Villiers will open the batting in South Africa's Twenty20 International series against Pakistan, which gets underway at Kingsmead in Durban on Friday.

De Villiers has stepped to the crease at the helm of the order in 36 ODIs, but never in the shortest format of the international game. This weekend, however, will mark a change in approach.

"We just feel that AB is one of the best batsmen in the world. He is one of those guys who on his day can score a century. There are not a lot of players like that in the world and we feel AB is definitely that, an x-factor player," said captain Faf du Plessis, who succeed de Villiers on a full-time basis earlier this month. "There are only a handful of players in the world that can score centuries up front. Without putting any extra pressure on AB he is a fantastic player, he is a great striker of the ball, he plays proper cricket shots and he can also take the game away from the opposition."

Du Plessis confirmed the uncapped Kyle Abbot will make his debut during the two-match series, in a bid to establish a new death bowler for an attack sans the services of the rested Dale Steyn and injured Morne Morkel.

"That's a very important thing that we've looked at in terms of our shorter form of the game. Something that we can really improve on is our death bowling and our skills at the death," added du Plessis. "Yes, we certainly feel Kyle brings that, he has been excellent in domestic cricket with bowling at the death. So, we will definitely use him and see how he goes through the series."

Left-arm seamer Lonwabo Tsotsobe, meanwhile, has recovered from an ankle injury - and is likely to be named in Friday's XI. Spinner Robin Peterson, however, is nursing a stiff neck - and will have to undergo a fitness test

Meanwhile, De Villiers’ explaining his current lack of feel for the format, said a big problem was that the team hadn’t played a lot. “It’s difficult to find our way. We’re going to play a couple in this series, then three, four months down the line we’ll play another one, maybe two. It was difficult for me, especially when I was captain. I’m quite happy with Faffie as captain now, so I can focus more on the one-dayers, with Graeme (Smith) obviously dealing with the Tests.” De Villiers said he didn’t find adapting to the different forms of the game too difficult.

De Villiers said it would definitely be “top four”, but he wanted to finally fix on a position and stick with it. “Obviously it’s only 20 overs and the key is for me to bat as long as possible. But we’ve still got to make a decision on that.”

The Proteas’ T20 team has been fixed as an obvious entry point into the national set-up for young, talented players. This has led, however, to a certain volatility in the composition of the team, leading to De Villiers’s concerns. “We haven’t played a lot of cricket together as yet. It makes it tough when we do change the team around a lot, because we haven’t got a proper feeling for each other. We need to try to develop the patterns of play that Graeme (Smith) has spoken about so many times in the context of the Test team.”

Clearly there’s a significant gap in quality between the stability and settled nature of the Test squad compared with the teams playing in the limited-overs formats. Looking ahead to the T20 World Cup in Bangladesh in March next year, De Villiers was optimistic that things would have improved by then.

“I definitely believe that the results will start to show if we have a consistency of selection over the next 12 to 24 months,” he said. De Villiers said South Africa faced a tough two-match series against Pakistan. “I’ve seen the names in their T20 squad, and there’s some proper cricketers coming over here. We’re playing in our own conditions and that’s obviously an advantage, but they’re a very dangerous side. They beat us in the T20 World Cup (in Sri Lanka last year), and they hurt us badly. That was probably the game that unravelled the tournament for us.”

De Villiers said players such as Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik were not only world-class players, but also had experience. “They’ve won World Cups before, so I’m expecting them to come here and provide a very tough challenge for us.”