ODI series preview: Pakistan v South Africa
If everyone can see past the various disciplinary distractions, it could be an intriguing series between two sides who tend to be rather closely matched in this format.
There are quite a few plot points going into the five-match ODI series between SOuth Africa and Pakistan, coming as it does on the back of the drawn Test series that saw quite a few disciplinary issues raise their heads.
Most notable was the Faf du Plessis 'Zipgate' saga which saw him fined and the team punished with five penalty runs to Pakistan. This could cause a bit of niggle between the players, given the PCB's insistence that the punishment was too lenient.
Added to that, Saeed Ajmal found himself in trouble for showing dissent to the umpire and appealing in a sarcastic manner, while Mohammad Irfan was in trouble for running on the pitch and was prevented from bowling for part of the game.
But if everyone can see past those distractions, it could be an intriguing series between two sides who tend to be rather closely matched in this format – and boast <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>very competitive cricket betting odds</b></a>. The last full series between the sides, earlier this year, saw Pakistan lose narrowly, while the most recent match, in England, saw the Proteas victorious.
The visitors will have to play the first two matches without star batsman Hashim Amla and pace spearhead Dale Steyn. Both are in South Africa due to family reasons and rest respectively, and will be back for the third game on 6 November.
The Proteas coped without Amla superbly in Dubai, with Graeme Smith and AB de Villiers stepping up to lead the side to a big win, and eyes will again be on the senior duo, as well as on Quinton de Kock and David Miller, who joined up with the side.
Bowling-wise, the Proteas have brought Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Wayne Parnell into the squad, both rather inconsistent in recent months. But Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel are there to provide pace steadiness. As for spin, Robin Peterson's batting might give him the edge over Imran Tahir.
Pakistan, meanwhile, have all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez back after he was dropped for the Tests. The Proteas did not enjoy batting against his off-spin earlier this year, and his partnership with Saeed Ajmal could prove devastating.
Wicketkeeping-wise, they have swapped one Akmal for another, but not Kamran in either case. Adnan, who had a poor Test series with the gloves, makes way for Umar, who was cleared last month after suffering from seizures during the Caribbean Premier League.
Home fans will look forward to Shahid Afridi's presence, given his ability to win a game on his own, while the good form of skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, and batsman Asad Shafiq, will hold them in good stead.
<b>Key Men</b><br>For the Proteas, they will be looking to skipper <b>AB de Villiers</b>. He is the most successful player in games between the two sides, and loves batting in the UAE, as his century in Dubai attests. <a href='http://www.paddypower.com/bet/cricket/one-day-internationals/Pakistan-v-South-Africa-6018591.html' target='_blank' class='instorylink'><b>Favourable odds of 3/1 have him as the series' leading run-scorer.</b></a>
The hosts will need <b>Misbah</b> to finally push past the triple figure mark and convert his many ODI big half centuries into a ton. His great run of form in all formats hasn't always led to wins, and he'll need to make sure they do now.
<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2013 Champions Trophy: South Africa won by 67 runs in Birmingham<br>2013, 5th ODI: South Africa won by six wickets in Benoni<br>2013, 4th ODI: Pakistan won by three wickets in Durban<br>2013, 3rd ODI: South Africa won by 34 runs in Johannesburg<br>2013, 2nd ODI: Pakistan won by six wickets in Centurion
<b>Prediction</b><br>We predict a tight series, like it was in South Africa and given their close proximity on the rankings table. Pakistan will start off the better side, but once the Proteas are at full strength, they will come back to take a three-two series win.
<b>Squads</b><br><i>Pakistan:</i> Misbah-ul-Haq (capt) Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Umar Amin, Umar Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Sohail Tanvir, Wahab Riaz, Sohaib Maqsood, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed
<i>South Africa:</i>AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Imran Tahir, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Graeme Smith, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe
<b>Fixtures</b><br>First ODI: 30 October in Sharjah<br>Second ODI: 1 November in Dubai<br>Third ODI: 6 November in Abu Dhabi<br>Fourth ODI: 8 November in Abu Dhabi<br>Fifth ODI: 11 November in Sharjah
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