T20I series preview: South Africa v Pakistan

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Opportunity knocked for Pakistan to top the International Cricket Council's rankings last week, but was squandered. No less than five days later, South Africa have the chance to complete what was started in the United Arab Emirates.

Partly because of the Board of Control of Cricket in India's defiance and partly thanks to the Pakistan Cricket Board's prompt reaction, the Wanderers and Newlands will bring two Twenty20 Internationals.

Opportunity knocked for Pakistan to top the International Cricket Council's rankings last week, but was squandered. No less than five days later, South Africa have the chance to complete what was started in the United Arab Emirates.

The trip to Dubai was somewhat of a precursor, particularly after all and sundry learned of Pakistan's ambition to step in – nominally – where India had – mostly – jumped ship. By no means littered leftovers, the Proteas will do themselves a grand favour by making the result a round four-nil at the end of the week.

Long criticised for their many shortfalls in limited-overs cricket, South Africa are seemingly reignited under the guidance of new head coach Russell Domingo. With three more ODIs to follow, the chance is certainly there to truly put the bugbears of the past to bed.

The same personnel has been kept too, with all-rounder David Wiese and spinner Aaron Phangiso allowed another chance to potentially book a berth in the squad for next year's World Twenty20 in Bangladesh. The latter, in particular, needs a big performance in the wake of leg-spinner Imran Tahir's prominence and aspiring all-rounder JP Duminy's burgeoning role as a slow bowler.

Wiese is an intriguing fit, one that has been necessitated by the ousted Albie Morkel's fall from favour. A jack of both trades but a master of none, the Domingo and company will do well to establish his stance as a batting or bowling all-rounder. Goodness knows the post of a so-called 'floater' never really served Morkel well.

Pakistan, uncharacteristically, haven't made wholesale changes as a knee-jerk reaction to defeat in the UAE. Out-of-form seamer Wahab Riaz has been dropped, yes, but the bulk of the squad has remained the same. Pity, though, about injuries to fast bowler Mohammad Irfan and all-rounder Shoiab Malik and Abdul Razzaq. The trio were forming a welcome dynamic. Irfan's absence is certainly a positive for South Africa, as publicly recognised by Domingo this week.

Batting, namely finishing, will be Pakistan's highest priority. Promising starts floundered to lame follow-through consistently in the Gulf. Harder, faster conditions will certainly benefit right- and left-hander intent on bludgeoning rather than caressing.

Rankings-wise, it's third versus fourth place in Johannesburg and Cape Town this week. The gap was considerably bigger a week ago, and the consequent competition worthy. The tables, again, warrant the same.

<b>Key Men</b><br>No official news on whether or not the young <b>Quinton de Kock</b> will play as a wicketkeeper or not yet, but as a specialist batsman he has certainly usurped the snubbed Colin Ingram – and must continue to justify this decision.

Relative rookie <b>Sohaib Maqsood</b> impressed in his debut series in the UAE, establishing himself as the lone highlight amid an otherwise dour batting order. Now, on much more testing tracks, he can prove himself as the composite package.

<b>Last Five Head-To-Head Results</b><br>2013: Second T20I: South Africa won by six runs in Dubai<br>2013: First T20I: South Africa won by nine wickets in Dubai<br>2013: Second T20I: Pakistan won by 95 runs in Centurion<br>2013: First T20I: Match abandoned in Durban<br>2012: World Twenty20, Group 2: Pakistan won by two wickets in Colombo

<b>Prediction</b><br>Trumped in their adopted back garden and quite depleted by injury, Pakistan are not going to outdo a South African unit buoyed by rare, recent limited-overs success – abroad. At home, the Proteas will be even bigger, better.

<b>Squads</b><br><i>South Africa:</i> Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, Henry Davids, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Imran Tahir, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, David Wiese.

<i>Pakistan:</i> Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Shahid Afridi, Sohaib Maqsood, Sohail Tanvir, Anwar Ali, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Nasir Jamshed, Asad Shafiq, Bilawal Bhatti.

<b>Fixtures</b><br>First T20I: Johannesburg, 20 November<br>Second T20I: Cape Town, 22 November

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