South Africa vs Pakistan | Friday 15 March | Centurion | 14:30
A comfortable and convincing victory over Pakistan in the first ODI will reignite public admiration for the Proteas in the limited overs arena. There’s already talk of how settled they looked, how in control of the game they were and how the ‘fringe’ players in the side stepped up to the plate following doubt in their abilities at international level. That is not to say it is not admirable but in my opinion, Pakistan simply made too many mistakes. Whether the tourists have the ability to rectify these mistakes is another question entirely, one that will surely be answered at Centurion.
South Africa 5/10
The Proteas have firmly turned their attention the Champions Trophy in June and minus the two frontline quicks in Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, are playing their full-strength side. It’s clear now that Jacques Kallis doesn’t really factor into future ODI plans as the Proteas strive to find an adequate replacement. Dale Steyn should make a reappearance following a trip to America but Morkel is still in doubt with a hamstring injury. Colin Ingram’s picture perfect century on Sunday has seen him make a strong claim for a permanent position at first drop, despite coming in at number four as AB de Villiers promoted himself to three. What is worrying for me is the fact that Ingram has a fantastic record in Bloemfontein and against Pakistan, which often conspires to mask the fact that he has been pretty inconsistent at international level. Nevertheless, de Villiers and Ingram’s partnership was a joy to watch as they absorbed the pressure of two quick Pakistani wickets and worked the ball around the park to score quickly, yet quietly. They punished the bad balls when they had their eyes in and despite AB falling to a terrible stroke, Ingram marched on to his century. Kleinveldt and McLaren were impressive with the ball and wrapped up the Pakistani for a paltry 190, 125 runs short of the Proteas’ 315/4.
If Pakistan persist with a majority spin attack, it will be a long day for them at Centurion. The pace bowlers are the one who will thrive on the lively wicket. Since 2009, the Proteas’ record at the ground has been a little shaky. Pakistan played twice here in 2009 during the Champions Trophy, where they won one and lost one. The forecast is partly cloudy with little chance of rain.
BEST: Top South Africa Batsman, Hashim Amla 11/4
Although I’m usually loathe to back the favourite in this market, Amla’s form at Centurion is undeniable. He positively loves playing here. The pace of wicket suits his style of play, as he loves the ball coming onto the bat, giving him the opportunity to use those lightning quick reflexes. Expect a ton from the mighty Hash.
VERDICT: South Africa 5/10
Although I feel this will be a much closer encounter with the Pakistanis ironing out some of the obvious creases, the Proteas should have enough to take it. A superior pace attack and a batting line-up with the constant prospect of a centurion ticks all the boxes needed for me.