Pakistan vs South Africa – The format that matters

Proponents of the Test format (me) and proponents of the T20 format (the other admin) have mutual feelings for the ODI format because it’s a mix of the two. And now we’re at the doorstep of a 5-match ODI series, which is likely to satisfy both the lovers of Test cricket and the lovers of T20 cricket.

I have long argued that Pakistan has always been a confused side during ODIs. It is like they can’t decide whether to attack or defend.

With Misbah as the Test captain, Pakistan has been defending a lot lately. However, thank God for our attacking bowlers, the game gets fairly balanced. In T20, as someone who I don’t remember said, “Pakistan is the best, because they don’t have the time to self-destruct.” Rightly so. But ODI is a different game altogether – a mixture of the temperament to stay at the crease along with the ability to hit every ball out of the park. With the new rule of having at least 5 fielders in the circle all the time, Misbah is forced to attack, which has made the life of millions of Pakistani fans worth living. At least now we can’t complain that Misbah tuk tuk-ed his way through the game.

South Africa – they may not be the number one team in this format, but they’re definitely as difficult as it can get for Pakistan. With Amla, Smith and Steyn returning to the squad, Pakistan’s happy days seem to be over. Even though Steyn is not as deadly with the white ball as he is with the red ball, he can do a fair bit of damage in the 10 overs he will get to bowl. The rest of the South African team doesn’t scare me much. It’s only Amla and Smith, led by Steyn. If they succeed against Pakistan, I expect the series to go down 3-2 or maybe even 4-1 in favor of South Africa. Otherwise, we have a damn good team to beat them, provided we don’t drop catches and Kamran Akmal doesn’t enter the field with greased hands. Gul needs to carry forward his form from the T20 and so does Hafeez. Afridi will have to do equally  good if not better than the T20. Misbah … well things need to go our way in order to stop him from making unnecessary defensive changes. Basically, the dangerous Pakistan needs to turn up. At least for three out of the five matches anyway. If that happens, it is safe to predict the series is ours 3-2.

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