South Africa have another thing coming if they think they'll walk away with the upcoming ODI series against Pakistan, given their recent showings in the format, and will rely on their senior players to guide the rookies.

The five matches span most of the next three weeks, and the Proteas will be using this series as a final chance to make sure their squad for the Champions Trophy in June is the correct one. Based on recent evidence, this has been a tricky task.

South Africa are light years ahead of the opposition in Tests, but their limited-overs record in recent months leaves much to be desired. They lost to England 2-1 at the end of last year, and surprisingly faltered against New Zealand by the same margin earlier this year.

Pakistan have a strong one-day side, most of whom played in the T20 that saw them beat the Proteas by 95 runs last week. The return of Graeme Smith and Dale Steyn will be crucial to the hosts hopes of avoiding another such humiliation.

There will be concern surrounding fast bowler Morne Morkel, who is still struggling with a hamstring injury, though coach Gary Kirsten expects his to play for at least some of the series, and be rotated for the rest.

Pakistan, meanwhile, added a warm-up win against a South African XI to their records following the T20, with Kamran Akmal and Imran Farhat shining with the bat and the bowling attack sharing the spoils.

They have paceman Junaid Khan back in the line up to complement Umar Gul, who demolished the hosts in the T20. Saeed Ajmal is the obvious threat, given his status as the world's top ODI bowler, though the top batsmen are Amla and AB de Villiers.

It should be an interesting series, and hopefully a competitive one, as recent results between the sides (albeit in 2010) show honours being mostly even and close results in each game. Incidentally, if the Proteas whitewash the series, they will go top of the ODI rankings.

Key Men
It seems fairly redundant to name Hashim Amla as the Proteas' key player, given that it happens before every series, but it's a must. He's the top ODI batsman (top Test batsman too, incidentally) and does well against this attack, making three half centuries in the Tests.

It would be easy to nominate Saeed Ajmal here, but we're going to go with Mohammad Hafeez for Pakistan. He's got an odd knack for outshining Ajmal, and the South Africans don't seem to play him very well. Also, he's a major threat with the bat, and can win a game on his own.

Last Five Head-To-Head Results
2010: Third ODI: SA won by 57 runs in Dubai
2010: Second ODI: Pakistan won by one wicket in Dubai
First ODI: South Africa won by two runs in Dubai
2010: Second ODI: Pakistan won by one wicket in Abu Dhabi
2010: First ODI: South Africa won by eight wickets in Abu Dhabi

Prediction
Online betting firm Sky Bet have South Africa at 2/5 and Pakistan at 2/1 in the odds to win the series. Visit Sky Bet for the latest cricket betting.

More cricket bets here.

Squads
South Africa: AB de Villiers, Kyle Abbott, Hashim Amla, Farhaan Behardien, Faf du Plessis. Colin Ingram, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso, Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe

Pakistan: Misbha-ul-Haq, Abdur Rehman, Asad Shafiq, Imran Farhat, Junaid Khan, Kamran Akmal, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Irfan, Nasir Jamshed, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Younis Khan

Fixtures
First ODI: 10 March in Bloemfontein
Second ODI: 15 March at Centurion
Third ODI: 17 March in Johannesburg
Fourth ODI: 21 March in Durban
Fifth ODI: 24 March in Benoni