The visiting side won the first T20I despite not being at their best, which will give them added confidence
It’s difficult to establish whether the nail-biting nature of the first T20I was about as good as this hollowed South African unit can produce, or the harbinger of a tremendously competitive T20I series. South Africa would brush off the loss of most of their best players, especially with the bat, blasting to 188, with those who stood in for the likes of Quinton de Kock and Rassie van der Dussen more than justifying their places, and possibly even giving the selectors a headache ahead of the T20 World Cup. It was telling, though, that the death bowling couldn’t drive home a victory from an especially favourable situation, which makes one wonder about their ability to be competitive when a bigger effort might be needed from them.
South Africa’s problem is they need to ensure their top five bat as many overs as possible, even as they continue to take the risks necessary to push their batting totals past 200. All of this against an outstanding Pakistan bowling attack, who will be raring to hit the heights after an uncharacteristically poor bowling performance at The Wanderers. With George Linde coming in as early as number six and, Andile Phehlukwayo aside, limited big hitting lower down, South Africa will have to find a way to extract the best of both worlds from the top order. And while they just about managed it in the first game, it’s unclear whether that’s sustainable over a four-match series.
Pakistan WWLWW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa LLWLL
In the spotlight
Heinrich Klaasen appeared to struggle with a foot injury following a blow sustained en route to the destructive half-century he scored on Friday, but if fit, his contributions remain pivotal to South Africa’s fledgling middle order. It was no coincidence Pakistan managed to find a way to put the handbrake on after the wicketkeeper batsman was dismissed, with South Africa failing to find a boundary between overs 14 to 19, derailing an innings that looked set to surpass 200. With the lower middle order light on the kind of power hitters South Africa will need, the importance of contributions from the top order, and Klaasen lower down, is even more magnified.
Sisanda Magala and Linde were the only South Africans to have notably poor games, so South Africa are unlikely to ring in the changes. Kyle Verreynne, surprisingly left out for the first game, could come in, but if van der Dussen remains unfit, an unchanged eleven might not be a surprise either.
South Africa (possible): 1 Janneman Malan 2 Aiden Markram 3 Pite van Biljon 4 Kyle Verreynne/Rassie van der Dussen 5 Heinrich Klaasen (capt & wk) 6 Andile Phehlukwayo 7 George Linde/ Wiaan Mulder 8 Beuran Hendricks 9 Lizaad Williams 10 Tabraiz Shamsi 11 Sisanda Magala
Fakhar Zaman may well open this time around, but Pakistan are expected to go in unchanged.
Pakistan (likely): 1 Fakhar Zaman 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk) 3 Babar Azam (capt) 4 Haider Ali 5 Mohammad Hafeez 6 Mohammad Nawaz 7 Faheem Ashraf 8 Hasan Ali 9 Shaheen Afridi 10 Haris Rauf 11 Usman Qadir
Pitch and conditions
Clear blue skies are expected for much of the week, so weather shouldn’t play a part. With high scores often chased down at The Wanderers, the side winning the toss might opt to field first on this occasion.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000