Pakistan, who endured a humiliating drubbing at the hands of rivals India earlier in the week, prepare for a must-win match against South Africa at Edgbaston today. The Proteas, who are par on points with India and second in Group B, meanwhile can seal a berth in the semifinals with a win tonight.
How significant is this match?
South Africa enter this match-up on the back of a 96-run victory over SL in their first match, whereas Pakistan are coming on the back of a 127-run thrashing against their fierce rivals India. South Africa can seal a berth in the Semi-Finals with a victory today whereas Pakistan would be knocked out the tournament if they fail to win this match. The Proteas are the Number 1 ODI team and have been in terrific form of late, despite their 2-1 series loss against England prior to the Champions Trophy. Pakistan, on the other hand, are reeling in 8th position below Bangladesh and Sri Lanka and their struggles in ODIs was clearly visible from their performance against India in the first match. On paper, this looks like a really one-sided contest but South Africa would be well aware of the uncertain and unpredictable nature of Pakistan, and the threat they pose if they get going.
Where the match could be won and lost
South Africa - where the match could be won:
1) Their Top 4 batsmen:
With Amla, De Kock, Du Plessis and De Villiers, South Africa possess one of the best top-orders in the world. And with Amla and Du Plessis in great form, this would certainly be their key trump card to win the match. Amla and Du Plessis put on a 145-run stand in their first match against SL, and SA would love to see a repeat of that tonight. Quinton De Kock hasn't been on the runs in his last 4 matches but as we know, once he gets going, he always converts the starts he gets into a big hundred. De Villiers had a rare failure against SL and would be looking to make amends for it tonight, by scoring big.
2) Their bowling:
With Kagiso Rabada and Imran Tahir firing, South Africa would feel that they could dismantle the Pakistan batting line up at any given point of time. Chris Morris chipped in with 2 wickets on his own in the previous match as well, and Morne Morkel would look to have a better outing against Pakistan tonight. Thus SA would know that their bowling is capable of defending any target set by their batsmen.
South Africa - where the match could be lost:
1) Their lower-middle order:
Despite having such a strong top-order, South Africa's lower-middle order has always been a cause of concern for them over the years. This was evident in their previous match against Sri Lanka, where they collapsed from 189-2 in 34 overs to 299 for 6 in 50 overs. They would know that this is one area they should work on, and this might cost them the match in one of the future games, if not today.
Pakistan - where the match could be won:
1) Their bowling:
Pakistan's hopes to do well after the thrashing against India was dented after Wahab Riaz was ruled out of the rest of the tournament. However, they would know that they've to come up with a perfect bowling performance tonight to have any chance of winning. Pakistan's bowling has always been stronger than their batting, and when their bowlers give a no-show, it becomes an impossible task for them to win matches.
Pakistan - where the match could be lost:
1) Their batting:
Pakistan has struggled with their batting for quite a while now and it has been a major area of concern for them. They've often found themselves getting bowled out cheaply or failing to chase easy targets, and this would be on the back of their minds when they take on South Africa today. Pakistan would know that their batting has to drastically improve if they are to stand a chance of winning against South Africa tonight.
2) Their fielding:
Pakistan squandered several simple chances against India to dismiss the likes of Kohli and Yuvraj, and they would know that the last thing they want to do today gives someone like an AB De Villiers a second chance. With a string of consistently poor fielding displays, Pakistan would have to improve massively to put up a fight against the Proteas tonight.
Despite Pakistan's uncertainty and unpredictability, they look like a team which is short on confidence and hence this would only make it more difficult for them to win. South Africa, on the other hand, would be confident of their chances tonight and would fancy beating this Pakistan team. Thus we predict a comprehensive victory for the Proteas over Pakistan.
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