Series on the line as strong South Africa, battered Pakistan search for perfect combination

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Series on the line as strong South Africa, battered Pakistan search for perfect combination

Pakistan team in a huddle ahead of a match. © Getty Images

If the ongoing Pakistan’s tour of South Africa has to be classified into a genre, ‘mystery’ would be the right one. It’s been a series of stand-in captains, alright. While Sune Luus has led the Proteas in the absence of Dane van Niekerk, the first T20I on Friday (January 29) just took it a level higher, with Aliya Riaz standing in for the ‘original’ stand-in Pakistan captain, Javeria Khan.

But, mystery.

If Luus’ reluctance to bowl herself in the first two ODIs was a mysterious aspect, which was only compounded by her success in the final match, Pakistan’s reluctance to give more batting time to two of their best and in-form players in Nida Dar and Aliya Riaz just continued the chain.

Dar, who was the third-highest run-scorer in the preceding ODI series, walked in on Friday with just 29 balls left in Pakistan’s innings. The call for her to bat higher only grew louder when she duly despatched both of her first two balls to the fence for fours and eventually finished unbeaten on 22 off just 15 with a strike rate of over 146 – the best in the innings. The leading run-scorer of the ODIs, Riaz, on the other hand, came in with only eight balls remaining and walked out facing only three of them for a single run. So come the second T20I, the tourists would dearly look to sort that batting order of theirs, which has a lot of openers.

Javeria, who was ruled out of the first game with a dislocated finger, should return to the XI and, perhaps, take Nahida Khan’s place. She was heard telling the broadcasters during the match that it was just a precautionary rest and that she should return for Sunday’s fixture.

The mystery continues.

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While it was expected that Syeda Aroob Shah would rightaway get into the thick of things in the T20Is after not being picked for the 50-over games, the leg-spinner continued to watch from the sidelines. Anam Amin, the left-arm spinner who returned none for 31, and let the visitors down on the field as well. Her spot could be in the spotlight with Shah in contention.

South Africa, meanwhile, had a near-perfect day, after their bowlers restricted Pakistan and the clinical batters chased the target easily. Shabnim Ismail became the fifth in the world and fourth in women’s T20I to pick 100 wickets in the format, while Kapp enhanced her reputation as a frontline seamer with her returns.

The mystery element, though, lied in Marizanne Kapp’s promotion to three, with Luus sitting in the dugout without her batting gear on. Moreover, after asserting the importance of leg-spinners in T20s in the pre-series press conference, the Protea skipper only bowled a solitary over and took herself off after being hit for 12.

What lies unknown is if South Africa stick to the same combination or give a game to off-spinner Nondumiso Shangase, who has warmed the bench so far. However, with seam bowling driving the hosts’ success, this could be the last move they would contemplate.

The weather forecast for Durban on match day seems good enough, with not much rain in the radar. Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg have a higher chance of precipitation on Sunday, thereby adding to the mystery element of the second T20I.

Will South Africa register their first series win since May 2019 – incidentally against Pakistan, or will Pakistan manage to stay in the hunt?


South Africa:  Sune Luus (c), Laura Wolvaardt, Trisha Chetty (wk), Mignon du Preez, Shabnim Ismail, Lizelle Lee, Ayabonga Khaka, Masabata Klaas, Nadine de Klerk, Tumi Sekhukhune, Sinalo Jafta, Marizanne Kapp, Lara Goodall, Nondumiso Shangase, Nonkululeko Mlaba, Faye Tunnicliffe, Anneke Bosch, Tazmin Brits.

Pakistan: Javeria Khan (c), Aimen Anwar, Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Ayesha Naseem, Ayesha Zafar, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Kainat Imtiaz, Muneeba Ali, Nahida Khan, Nashra Sandhu, Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Sadia Iqbal, Sidra Nawaz (wk) and Syeda Aroob Shah.