Champions Trophy: Pakistan vs South Africa

Batsman hits ball

Pakistan and South Africa go head to head in what both teams will view as an absolute must-win.

The men from the sub-continent are eager to recover from Sunday's defeat at the hands of India, while the Proteas are chasing momentum after Saturday's victory over Sri Lanka.

Defeat for Pakistan will remove them from contention for a berth in the semi-finals, while a loss for South Africa will essentially set up a must-win fixture against the Indians.

Pakistan v South Africa | Wednesday, 7 June 2017 | Edgbaston, Birmingham | 11:30

To Win Match
Pakistan 26/10 | Tie 35/1 | South Africa 31/100

The lowest ranked team at the tournament, Pakistan lived up to their poor billing against India. Their bowling was average, fielding substandard and batting abysmal. Recent retirees Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq would have been rolling in their armchairs. A 72-hour turnaround is brief for plenty of correction, but they must make it work.

Bowling-wise, seamer Mohammad Amir bowled with great pace and solid direction at Edgbaston - and will appreciate the opportunity to do so again at the same venue on Wednesday. Pakistan, though, simply can't open the attack with spinner Imad Wasim again. The ploy is effective in Twenty20 cricket, but not in the intermediate format of the international game.

Batting-wise, the top five need to come up with a functional plan. Yes, the conditions and opposition were challenging on Sunday, but there was a severe lack of collective cohesion from opener Azhar Ali and the rest. One needs to lay a foundation and the rest force the pace around him - not all try to do the same thing.

Spinners Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja were expected to fluster Pakistan. Instead, India's four seamers got on top of them. South Africa would have been watching and - with more pace to offer than Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah and company - Kagiso Rabada and Morne Morkel will know exactly what's required come Wednesday.

The teams have met in ODI competition on 72 occasions, with the Pakistanis triumphant in less than a third. The proverbial writing, indeed, is on the wall. It has been said before, though, and will be reiterated in the future - the outcome is largely dependent on which version of Pakistan rocks up on the day.

South Africa
Like New Zealand against Australia before them and Bangladesh against England before that, South Africa's pursuit of a 320-plus total suffered late deflation in the face of a hopeful Sri Lankan attack. The hard work put in by centurion Hashim Amla and sidekick Faf du Plessis was almost undone - and they must be mindful of this potential hiccup against Pakistan.

The bowling combination against Sri Lanka, too, was questionable. While the Proteas might not have to make personnel changes to the XI, positional tweaks will be welcome. Wayne Parnell, despite his left-arm variation, must not partner Rabada up front. Morkel, if selected ahead of an additional all-rounder, must take the new ball.

A minor disadvantage for South Africa is that they have had to relocate, albeit not far, from London to Birmingham for this match. Pakistan, meanwhile, have remained close to Edgbaston - and have the tactical benefits that come with their stay. The Proteas, though, comfortably beat Pakistan here in the 2013 Champions Trophy.

De Villiers referenced this result during his post-match speech on Saturday. He all but admitted, however, that a score of less than 320 won't be enough against Pakistan. That, however, was before their capitulation against India. Conditions, evidently, are not as conducive to big scores as they would have been in, say, the sub-continent or South Africa. The United Kingdom is a great cricketing leveller.

Sri Lanka had somewhat of an inside scoop with former Proteas pace Allan Donald as their bowling coach, while Pakistan have former South Africa head coach Mickey Arthur in their ranks. Donald's instruction on how to bowl to the counter-attacking JP Duminy was obvious - and one knows Arthur will share insider knowledge on the rest as well.

Verdict: South Africa 31/100
In a match that will bring together the number one-ranked ODI team against the tournament's lowest ranked, and in a context largely void of surprises, there can be only one winner.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for

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