Friday, September 28, 2012

Pakistan vs. South Africa Key Questions

Do Pakistan need to play both Gul and Tanvir?
Pakistan are going to play at the Premadasa for the first time in this tournament. Compared to the other venues in this tournament, the pitch is likely to be more favourable to the spinners than fasters. So far Umar Gul and Sohail Tanvir have bowled an extremely poor line and length, and have been extremely expensive even against Bangladesh.

Umar Gul's modus operandi nowadays seems to be to bowl as short as possible. While Tanvir can still be effective if he gets in the right rhythm, Gul still seems to be living off his feats in the 2009 World Twenty20. With either of Yasir Arafat or Abdul Razzaq likely to feature, Pakistan could drop one of the two pace bowlers and boost their spinning options by adding the young Raza Hasan to the attack.

Will Imran Nazir succeed against Steyn and Morkel?
Advocates of Imran Nazir have been basking in the glory of his match-winning knock against Bangladesh in the group stage. Since Nazir's return to the side in the lead-up series against Australia, he has very rarely fired.

Against the best new-ball attack in the tournament, one gets the feeling that Nazir will have to be extremely lucky to get a decent score. Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel are unlikely to serve Nazir any buffet balls to go after, and the opener could easily succumb to a rush of blood or cross-batted shot in the powerplay overs.

Can South Africa's middle order cope with Pakistan's spin trio?
South Africa's middle order is packed with game-changers, including captain AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, JP Duminy and Albie Morkel. However, they will not have encountered a challenge as stern as facing Pakistan's spin trio in the subcontinent.

The wiles and guile of Saeed Ajmal have been simply too hard to handle for most batsmen, including the grandmasters of playing spin bowling - the Indian middle order. Consistently bowling at an economy rate of under 6, Ajmal's sheer variety within the allotted 24 deliveries is a demonstration of a spinner at the top of his craft. Hafeez and Afridi have not bowled to their standards so far in the tournament, with both erring on a shorter length frequently. If Pakistan's spin manages to contain the South African middle order, they could even defend a small total. Conversely if the Proteas big-hitters succeed, they could bat Pakistan out of the game.

Which team can go bigger in a slugfest?
With sporadic showers in the forecast, the game could easily end up being a shortened hitting contest, much to the chagrin of many a cricket purist. Until the men in charge of running the game come up with a better solution for rain-interrupted twenty20 matches, the teams have to adjust to the current rules.

In such a scenario, the strength of the bowling attack hardly matters. With batsmen not putting any premium on their wickets, scoring boundaries becomes the ultimate aim. Both teams have players who can go big and change the game in an over. For Pakistan, the Akmal brothers will have to come to the fore. Shahid Afridi can't be relied upon with the bat anymore, so Nasir Jamshed will be expected to continue his fine form and launch his wristy aerial shots on both sides of the wicket. South Africa might just have the edge in the sense that their batsmen have a method to their madness. de Villiers and Morkel in particular, can go big without looking unnecessarily rash or risky. Furthermore, Johan Botha and Robin Peterson down the order can also clear the ropes effectively. It could be a close run bash.

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