March 28, 2023

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It’s not quite the quarterfinal we were hoping for, but the clash between South Africa and Pakistan has a lot riding on it for both sides. A win for South Africa will guarantee them a place in the final four – even before they’ve played their last group fixture against Netherlands – while Pakistan have to win to keep their chances of progressing alive. At a venue that has offered something for seamers, and with a quartet in each camp, this has all the makings of a classic in an already eventful World Cup.

South Africa are the only unbeaten side and would’ve had a full house of points had weather not intervened on their victory march against Zimbabwe. The same Zimbabwe then stunned Pakistan, who crashed to their second defeat after losing to India. Watching how Zimbabwe have unraveled since then would’ve left Pakistan asking themselves a few questions about where they went wrong, and they don’t have to look too far for answers.

Pakistan have not been able to score enough runs and have not scored them very quickly either. While South Africa’s problem in that department stops with Temba Bavuma, Pakistan’s travels through their top-order. They will want to be able to find ways of either being imposing upfront, or giving their middle-order more of an opportunity.

All that means the period up top, against South Africa’s varied attack, is likely going to be the key in the final outcome. Luckily for Pakistan, they can issue the same warning to South Africa. Their attack has also been labeled the best in the tournament (albeit by their own legspinner Shadab Khan) and as Shaheen Shah Afridi continues to find his rhythm post-injury, they could match South Africa pound-for-pound.

Pakistan also have one clear advantage. They’ve had the better of South Africa in T20s recently, winning both the home and away series against them in 2021. They’ve also come out on the right side every time they’ve met at a T20 World Cup, but they haven’t played in a decade. Sometimes history matters, sometimes current pressure overrides that. Both teams have plenty to play for, and it may hinge on who stays in the moment longer.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)
South Africa WWWLL

In the spotlight

The talk of the town in South African cricket is on a different continent to the World Cup. Dewald Brevis smashed 162 in a domestic T20 match but there’s no chance of him getting on a flight to Australia. So let’s turn our attention to another prodigy Tristan Stubbs. Brevis, who is 19, said that watching 22-year-old Stubbs’ rise to the national side has been an inspiration and he’ll be equally interested to see that it hasn’t all been smooth sailing for Stubbs. He has recorded scores of 7 and 6 at this World Cup, and has only one score above 24 to his name. It’s tough at the top.

Pakistan’s problems at the top of their line-up are largely due to the struggles of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan but if there is an opposition that can play them back into form, it’s South Africa. Since February 2021, Pakistan have played seven T20Is against South Africa, Babar has scored 259 runs (at 37.00 with a strike rate of 143.09) with a hundred and a fifty while Rizwan has scored 344 runs (at 86.00 with a strike rate of146.38) including a hundred and three half-centuries.

Team news

South Africa’s batting line-up is unlikely to change as long as they’re winning, which probably means that there’s still no room for Reeza Hendricks. The only consideration for them is whether to bring back Tabraiz Shamsi in place of one of the quicks, which could leave Lungi Ngidi on the sidelines.

South Africa: : (possible) 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Temba Bavuma (capt), 3 Rilee Rossouw, 4 Aiden Markram, 5 David Miller, 6 Tristan Stubbs, 7 Wayne Parnell, 8 Keshav Maharaj, 9 Anrich Nortje 10 Lungi Ngidi/Tabraiz Shamsi, 11 Kagiso Rabada.

Fakhar Zaman has been ruled out of the match with a knee injury so Pakistan’s line-up will have atleast one change. Asif Ali was dropped after the India match but may be brought back in to the XI unless Fakhar is ruled out of the tournament entirely, in which case Mohammad Haris could be brought in as a player replacement.

Pakistan: 1 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 2 Babar Azam (capt), 3 Shan Masood, 4 Asif Ali, 5 Iftikhar Ahmed, 6 Shadab Khan, 7 Mohammed Nawaz, 8 Mohammed Wasim, 9 Shaheen Shah Afridi, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Naseem Shah.

Pitch and conditions

This match will be played on the same pitch as the Sri Lanka-New Zealand game, where Trent Boult took a career-best 4 for 13. There’s expected to be something in it for the quicks but also plenty of opportunities to score big. Sydney is the only venue at the tournament where teams have breached 200. The best news is that there’s no chance of rain at all, with the temperatures in the mid-teens.

  • Pakistan have a 3-0 win record against South Africa at the T20 World Cup, even though they last met in 2012.
  • The average first innings score in Sydney at this tournament so far is 188, the highest of the venues used.
  • Quotes

    “Experience is a really valuable thing. In the previous game, we were in a little bit of trouble, there was a lot of pressure to win the game and it’s just about slowing the process down and understanding what is required right now. In the past we maybe could have got a little hasty. It’s just trying to weather the storm”
    David Miller is South Africa’s most capped T20I player and he believes his years in the game are starting to count

    “Everyone is professional and everyone knows about oneself. We lose against India, but I don’t think anyone is thinking about the India game because as a professional you can’t think about the past when you lose, then especially, you can’t be thinking that. After the India match, everyone was positive.”
    Pakistan’s defeat to India is not still on their minds, according to Naseem Shah

    Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent

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