SHARJAH - Pakistan and South Africa are all set to extend their rivalry into the one-day international format as well after producing a contrasting Test series which ended in a 1-1 draw in the UAE. South Africa, buoyant after their innings victory in the second and final Test in Dubai, will take on Pakistan, who stunned the number one Test team with a seven-wicket victory in Abu Dhabi, in a day-night encounter at the historic Sharjah Cricket Stadium on Wednesday.
Though the Proteas have gained a bit of momentum after their morale-boosting victory in the final Test, Pakistan, who have a superb record in Sharjah, would be keen to reestablish their ODI superiority in the UAE. Sharjah will host the first and final one-dayers in the five-match series, while the second one-day will be held in Dubai with Abu Dhabi hosting the third and fourth ODIs.
Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore knew his team had a terrible result in the final Test, but the Australian put up a brave face while facing questions during the press conference to unveil the Cool & Cool Cup at the Sharjah Stadium on Monday evening. “The mood of the team is pretty good. We had some good success with the white ball. We have eight new faces joining us. We start the series knowing that the team play pretty well and the recent form is pretty good.
“We got a cross section of players who can be suited to different conditions, which will be different from Sharjah to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. So when you pick a group of boys, we can get a strong eleven from the present squad,” Whatmore said.
However Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul Haq was a bit more realistic while assessing his team’s chances. “We have been playing together for a long time. You can’t say it is a new team or new faces. You can say there’s a little bit of change from the Test squad but these guys were really playing good one-day cricket for the last two-three years and most of them were playing before as well.
“Nasir Jamshed has played a lot of games and Ahmad Shahzad too has been playing regularly now. Umar Akmal is a regular member and he is now quite a bit senior and has won many matches for Pakistan. So you can’t say they are new at the international level.” Misbah is also not reading too much into the absence of South African star batsman Hashim Amla, who is doubtful for the ODIs as he is expecting the delivery of his second child. “South Africa are a world-class side with good batsmen and top bowlers. We don’t have to bother about who is playing for them or who will miss the next match, but our focus has to be on how to improve our performance against the opposition. Besides, they have a good reserve list to replace any player in the final eleven.”
Pakistan, who are ranked sixth in the ICC ODI rankings, have an opportunity to swap places with the fifth-ranked South Africa, if they beat South Africa 3-2 or better. Meanwhile South African coach Russell Domingo is quite enthused by his team’s sterling victory in the final Test.
“The ODIs are a different format, but we’ll take a bit of confidence form the Test victory. We are also used to the conditions in UAE now.” While talking about the team’s recent record in ODIs, Domingo said: “We haven’t played well recently, especially in Sri Lanka, but we beat Pakistan when they toured South Africa. So we take a bit of confidence from that and obviously the Test win (in Dubai) will help us. Besides, there are a couple of changes from the side which lost to Sri Lanka.”
The coach is also very hopeful about the role of Gary Kirsten, the new ‘batting mentor’, in the South African team. “Gary is a World Cup winning coach. I definitely see a big role for him in the team,” he added.
South African captain AB de Villiers vowed to attack Pakistan for a winning start at the opening one-day match despite his team being down two key playmakers. But De Villiers insists his team is brimming with confidence, especially after they managed to square the Test series 1-1, winning the second showdown in Dubai by an innings and 92 runs. "We didn't have much time for preparation so its really up for us mentally to get prepared but it's important to have a good start, get used to the conditions and adapt as quickly as possible and attack them in areas where they are not strong," said De Villiers on Tuesday. "Dale needed some rest but hopefully he will join us in good stead," said De Villiers of the paceman who returned home for rest but will be available from the third match in Abu Dhabi on November 6.
South Africa will be joined by one-day specialists Quinton de Kock, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Wayne Parnell, and Lonwabo Tsotsobe. De Villiers said he hoped to find the right combination for an early lead in the series. "We are tactically working on getting the right side which could give us the best opportunity to get a 1-0 lead. I am looking forward to see the guys performing well in the greens," said De Villiers whose team lost their last one-day series in Sri Lanka 4-1 in July this year.
They were routed by Sri Lankan spinners Ajantha Mendis (ten wickets) and Rangana Herath (six wickets). But despite their dismal showing against Sri Lanka, De Villiers insisted his team will be able to tackle Pakistan's spinners, especially M Hafeez. "He is a world class player, no doubt about that and he surprised everyone with the ball over the last few years and was the top bowler in the one-days, we have seen a lot of them and we are looking forward to the challenges here," said De Villiers.