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South Africa vs Pakistan 2nd ODI Preview

Centurion has been a bitter sweet venue for both teams on this tour. South Africa got to enjoy a follow-on innings win in the test match there, while Pakistan handed out a comprehensive hiding in the T20 at the same venue. All this, along with the inconsistency that both teams have shown in the ODI arena of late, add to the unpredictability of the 2nd ODI.

The Proteas went into this ODI series the more nervous of the two teams since their coloured clothing exploits of the last two years or so have left a lot to be desired, but their opening win in Bloemfontein and the manner in which it was achieved will give the ODI setup much needed confidence to take with them for the rest of the series.

It’s been a period of active limited overs rebuilding since Gary Kirsten and his ensemble band of management took over in 2011. Local cynics might want to replace ‘rebuilding’ with ‘experimenting’, but they’ll be hoping the recent exploits of the likes of Colin Ingram, Farhaan Behardien, Rory Kleinveldt and Ryan McLaren will continue to convince themselves and the players that they are on the right track.

They will, of course, still be very mindful of the talent at Pakistan’s disposal. It is a team awash with more ODI experience than themselves and (as always) has the requisite talent among their batsmen and bowlers to make an impact in South African conditions

The conditions in Centurion should prove to be similar to the ones experienced in the first ODI. It’s historically a true surface for the limited overs fare, with a zippy outfield and the high highveld altitude adding a few metres to any batsmen willing to go airborne. It should also provide a bit of extra pace for the seamers, possibly encouraging a short delivery or two just to keep the batsmen’s footwork honest.

There could well be rain in the late afternoon/early evening, but it’s characteristic of the area in this time of year to be a short thunderstorm and not delay proceedings for too long. This means that Duckworth and Lewis could well be padded up to affect the game, possibly even the toss.

South Africa will be hoping their top order can continue the good form that they showed in the perfectly paced total in Bloemfontein.

AB de Villiers’ fledgling captaincy career has still to be tested properly in this series (the story of the last ODI didn’t exact demand any pressured or innovative decision-making) and he’s admitted that he still has nightmares about being suspended for slow over rates again. His leadership will still be under the critical spotlight until he’s shown definitive proof that he’s the man for the job.

One of the criticisms of the team in recent ODIs has been their death bowling (something that was untested in Bloemfontein due to the match situation). It’s an area to watch, along with their collective composure in chasing targets.

Pakistan will just have to shrug off their bad day in Bloem and start afresh. Their seamers missed their lengths on Sunday, and the spinners couldn’t calm the innings down (especially spinners who weren’t Ajmal as the Protea batsmen seemed to show relief at not needing to read him).

While the issue of whether Kamran Akmal should open the batting or not has been dominating Pakistani armchair talk, that area of the team doesn’t seem to be in such a disastrous state as it is. Both Mohammad Hafeez and Nasir Jamshed got the cliched ‘start’ at a fine strike rate. They just couldn’t go on to anchor the innings (which surely can’t be the definition of what Kamran’s opening role would be).

One of the stereotyped Pakistani cricket characteristics is their inconsistency, a quality that seems to add to their romantic role ion the ICC stage. They will be keen to put the past behind them and exhibit their skills and test the inexperienced underbelly of this South African team (which, when it comes to the lower middle order and some of the bowlers, is far from a battle-hardened unit that Kirsten hopes it will be in the future).

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