A match between two under performing teams of this world cup, Pakistan and South Africa. While South Africa’s below par performance has been extremely surprising, Pakistan’s not so much. With Pakistan one always expects a combination of good victories and heavy losses with little in-betweens. In South Africa’s case however, one never expected the performance that’s been given.
While South Africa’s world cup campaign is more or less done and dusted, Pakistan still has an outside chance of making it to the semi finals and this is the motivation that is still giving hope to the people of this cricket crazy country. After last week’s humiliation against India, Pakistan’s cricket team has faced electronic and social media trial like none other. This even led to Sarfraz Ahmed, Shoaib Malik and Muhammad Hafeez coming out and asking for some privacy and respect and one might say rightly so.
This hope of making the semi final is what would be in the mind of the team as well. So would be the three instances where Pakistan has won ICC tournaments (1992 World Cup, 2009 T20 world cup and 2017 Champions Trophy). In all three of these tournaments Pakistan found itself in a similar situation as the one in which they find themselves today i.e. win all matches from a certain point in the tournament to win the trophy. While this is easier said than done, Pakistan’s needs to use this as a motivation to carry on.
Pakistan needs two changes for this match. The first change will be a change in attitude. Pakistan needs to believe they can win! This will be visible on the field from their body language, the efforts they put in while fielding and the lines they bowl when bowling. The second change would be of a change in selection. Shoaib Malik and Hassan Ali are expected to step aside for Haris Sohail and Mohammad Hasnain/Shaheen Afridi. Rumours were also about for Imam ul Haq stepping aside and Muhammad Hafeez coming in to open the innings which one hopes are just rumours. Imam is a quality player and needs to stay in the side. Pakistan needs stability at the top the order and Imam-Fakhar-Babar are Pakistan’s best bet for it.
Mohammad Amir will continue to play a major role in this match. He has unfortunately not had support from the other end up front. While Shaheen and Hasnain are both inexperienced, Shaheen remains a better option in light of slightly more experience and his good spells against South Africa a few months back. But there is a strong rumour about Hasnain getting a game. Will have to wait this one out. Imad might also be a good option to bowl with the new ball with Amir. He has done so in the past with reasonable success and he usually manages to stem the flow of runs. Might exactly be what Amir needs to snare one out early on.
Prediction: Pakistan to win. A slight resurgence can be expected. The Pakistani cricket team fan optimism is STILL alive!
P.s. A big surprise would be if Pakistan plays Asif Ali instead of Hassan Ali and relies more on trial by spin from Shadab, Imad, Hafeez and Haris.