CAPE TOWN - Pakistan produced their best batting effort in six matches to end their winless streak against South Africa and they will fancy doubling up on that on Sunday. The first of three ODIs, in what has been a marathon-run between these two teams, will be played in Cape Town with much less at stake than there was in the Twenty20 matches.
The 2015 World Cup is further away than next year's World T20, so this series will just be about the teams finding the right combination, something that is particularly important to the hosts. With veteran allrounder Jacques Kallis back in the mix, South Africa will work around him to assess what their squad may still need ahead of the big event.
Pakistan, on the other had, may be looking only as far as ensuring their batting line-up finds the solidity it lacked in UAE. Their focus will be on preventing the collapses that have dogged them recently. They have never beaten South Africa in a bilateral ODI series, but will fancy taking an early lead this time, purely because of the timing of the first match.
South Africa's T20 captain, Faf du Plessis will be married on Saturday, and although he is not in the one-day squad, many of his team-mates who will be in attendance at the ceremony. AB de Villiers is the best man, but may have to leave early to take care of his duties as captain the next day. The current South African side has not let off-field events influence their cricket but they also haven't had a wedding sandwiched between games. With festivities high for the hosts, Pakistan will see this as a chance to pounce.
It has been 21 months and 29 ODIs since Jacques Kallis has played 50-over cricket for South Africa, but he is back with an eye on the 2015 World Cup. With Faf du Plessis dropped, Kallis is likely to occupy the No.3 spot and he will operate as a fifth seamer. In the field, he will likely be stationed at slip, and keep an eye on whether he is also used in an advisory capacity to AB de Villiers.
Misbah-ul-Haq rejoined his team amid a cloud of controversy following his television interview with acing PCB chairman Najam Sethi. Although Misbah insisted there was no infighting in the Pakistan team, his parting words in UAE were a demand for more accountability from his batsmen. Misbah has recently developed a reputation as Pakistan's lone run-machine, and will hope for some support from the rest in this series.
With Kallis back in the fray, South Africa could use the opportunity to field their strongest team and see how the players gel. The only decision they have to make is whether they want the experience of the fully-fit Graeme Smith, or the flair of the in-form Quinton de Kock, who can also relieve de Villiers of the wicketkeeping duties, at the top of the order.
SQUADS:
PAKISTAN: M Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir Jamshed, Sohaib Maqsood, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Umar Amin, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Bilawal Bhatti, Anwar Ali, Abdur Rehman
SOUTH AFRICA: Hashim Amla, 2 Graeme Smith, Quinton de Kock (wk), Jacques Kallis, JP Duminy, AB de Villiers (capt), David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsoosbe, Imran Tahir.