LAHORE: After the 2-0 Test series sweep against South Africa, Pakistan look favourites in the Twenty20 International series against Proteas starting under lights here at the Gaddafi Stadium on Thursday.
The Babar Azam-led hosts however, would need to keep complacency at bay in the three-game T20 series if they are to replicate the show the Test team produced against Quinton de Kock’s men in Karachi and Rawalpindi.
All the three T20s will be held at the Gaddafi Stadium.
In the lead-up to the ongoing home series against South Africa, the Pakistan team and its management faced a lot of criticism after disastrous off-shore series results in Australia (November 2019), England (August 2020) and recently in New Zealand (Dec-Jan 2020-21). At one stage the jobs of head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis were at stake. However, the home Test series victory against South Africa has come as a breath of fresh air for the PCB, the team and its management.
It may be recalled here that Pakistan, who were termed hot favourites against a second-string Sri Lanka also in the three-match T20 home series in 2019-20, suffered a humiliating 3-0 sweep at the hands of a largely inexperienced but spirited Islanders. Therefore, complacency could prove dangerous for Pakistan, fourth in the ICC rankings, against a fresh South Africa T20 squad, ranked fifth.
Waqar emphasised this during his online presser on Wednesday.
“You have to bowl differently in different sets of conditions. Since our pacers are used to bowling in home conditions, they know how to bowl on home pitches. This is not just the case with Pakistan bowlers, but bowlers all around the world perform better in their home conditions, as compared to overseas. When our pacers play at home, they feel comfortable and they know how to use the conditions,” he said.
“The touring South African [T20] side is an international team, a big name in world cricket; it is not a B or C team and we will not be taking them lightly and rather doing our best to win the series,” Waqar said.
He urged Pakistan cricketers to live up to the expectations by displaying impressive form in the game’s shortest version.
“Our 2-0 win in the Test series was the result of combined team effort and mainly due to the superb performance of our pace battery. I look forward to a similar performance [by Pakistan bowlers] in the T20s,” the bowling coach added.
Waqar hoped that Pakistan pacers would fare well in home conditions.
Pakistan bowlers could not produce impressive shows in the last series they played in Australia, England and New Zealand. Besides the Test series losses in these countries, the green-shirts also suffered T20 series defeats in Australia (2-0) and New Zealand (2-1) and could only draw in England (1-1).
However, Waqar sounded upbeat on Wednesday hoping the bowlers would do better abroad in future.
“I am confident that the players will improve and perform better in overseas matches too. In the past, we have done well in England and have also beaten New Zealand comprehensively a decade ago. Hopefully, when we play abroad in future, our [bowlers’] performance will be far better,” he added.
Commenting on managing the workload of fast bowlers particularly Shaheen Shah Afridi who plays all formats, Waqar said it is being looked into.
“All our medical panels and trainers are keeping a close eye on Shaheen’s workload. Since the PSL is coming up next and franchises want their main players to feature in all matches, we will have to make a call regarding how many matches he will play against South Africa,” the 87-Test veteran said.
As Thursday’s match is scheduled to start at 6:00pm, the dew factor will have an impact from the very first ball till the end. In the last practice session held at the Gaddafi Stadium on Tuesday, both the teams experienced heavy dew. If dew continues in coming days, the teams may prefer to include more pacers instead of relying on spinners.
Both the teams also practised on Wednesday under floodlights.
Meanwhile, Pakistan batting coach Younis Khan said it was a great opportunity for the host team, particularly youngsters, to perform on home soil and cement their places in the team.
South Africa have selected a young team for the series as except top-order batsman David Miller (78 matches), opener Reeza Hendricks (25), batting all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo (27) and Tabriz Shamsi (25), all other players are significantly less experienced. Even their captain Heinrich Klaasen has played just 13 T20 Internationals, and has recently recovered from Covid-19.
Pakistan have also included a good number of youngsters for the T20s, alongside experienced campaigners like Babar (44 matches), Sarfaraz Ahmed (59), Faheem Ashraf (32), Asif Ali (25), Hasan Ali (30) and Mohammad Rizwan (26).
Young guns Amad Butt and Danish Aziz are likely to make their debut in the series.
The morale of the tourists must be on the lower side after they lost the Test series despite having a number of experienced players including Faf du Plessis, Quinton de Kock, Dean Elgar, Aiden Markram, Rassie van der Dussen, Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada.
The South African T20 squad is without all these seasoned campaigners as they have returned home after the Test series.
However, South African skipper Heinrich Klaasen has expressed complete trust in the abilities of his team and is eyeing victory. The 29-year-old wicket-keeper/batsman has negated the impression that the side led by him is South Africa’s second string.
South Africa hold a slight edge over Pakistan in their head-to-head T20 record. The former have won eight games out of 14 while the green-shirts came out victorious in six. Pakistan lost the three-match series 2-1 when they last faced Proteas in a T20 rubber staged in their backyard in February 2019.
No rain is forecast till Sunday.
The second and third T20 matches of the series will be staged on Saturday and Sunday.
PAKISTAN: Babar Azam (captain), Haider Ali, Khushdil Shah, Hussain Talat, Danish Aziz, Asif Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Zafar Gohar, Faheem Ashraf, Aamer Yamin, Amad Butt, Mohammad Rizwan (wicket-keeper), Sarfaraz Ahmed (wicket-keeper), Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain, Hasan Ali, Usman Qadir, Zahid Mehmood
SOUTH AFRICA: Heinrich Klaasen (captain, wicket-keeper), Nandre Burger, Okuhle Cele, Junior Dala, Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, George Linde, Janneman Malan, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Ryan Rickelton (wicket-keeper), Tabraiz Shamsi, Lutho Sipamla, Jon-Jon Smuts, Pite van Biljon (wicket-keeper), Glenton Stuurman, Jacques Snyman
Umpires: Aleem Dar and Ahsan Raza (both Pakistan)
TV umpire: Shozab Raza
Match referee: Mohammad Javed Malik (Pakistan)