Match Preview – South Africa vs Pakistan, Pakistan tour of South Africa 2021, 2nd ODI


The hosts will have to iron out their inconsistencies at the top if they are to level the series

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The first ODI painted a broad enough picture of both sides’ strengths and weaknesses in a way whole series often fail to do. Across exactly 100 overs of two mid-table sides jostling for position in the World Cup Super League, South Africa’s inconsistency at the top was laid bare, as were Pakistan’s struggles with their death bowling and a relatively lightweight middle order.

Equally, the home side’s resilience lower down, as well as the purple patches Anrich Nortje and Rassie van der Dussen currently enjoy, took them within inches of an unlikely win, while the brilliance of Babar Azam and the assuredness of Imam-ul-Haq came in handy in a below-par chase of 274. Nothing that happened at SuperSport Park will convince anyone these teams will compete for the biggest prizes just yet, but the first ODI showed they’re still capable of offering up absorbing contests.

Pakistan have a chance of wrapping up the series at the earliest opportunity in Johannesburg, which, regardless of the state of South African cricket, would be a major feather in the touring party’s cap. Series in South Africa have historically been a struggle for Pakistan, and the inflation of ODI scores notwithstanding, Pakistan’s chase on Friday was the joint third-highest outside of Asia in their history. They took wickets up top, and just about killed the game off with one partnership. In many ways, it was a dominant performance, large parts of which they merely need to replicate to put themselves 2-0 up.

South Africa will draw positives not just from intangibles like the spirited fightback and a never-say-die attitude, but the knowledge of significant room for improvement. The game might have gone down to the last ball, but they might believe they lost it in the first 15 overs; the loss of four early wickets meant they were always swimming against the current. That they almost got to the shoreline suggests a less disastrous start up top would place much greater pressure on Pakistan, and as we all saw on Friday, Pakistan under pressure always look like they might have a collapse in them.

The hosts will play in a different kit to mark the annual pink ODI, which raises money for breast cancer awareness and treatment.