Pakistan start off the Super Eights against a team which is very balanced and have the firepower in all departments of the game. South Africa have come through the preliminary stage putting up a very strong display. It has been the case with them in any tournament but now their grit and ability will be tested, as to how much they have learnt to cope with crunch, knockout situations where they tend to flounder mentally. I sincerely hope, that part has been duly taken care of. If that is so, South Africa is the team, which can challenge sub-continent giants in their backyard.
South Africa's batting consists of some players who are a class apart. Amla, Kallis, De Villiers have the capability to take on any bowling. Besides, they have the new T20 star Richard Levi, Du Plessis, Duminy, Albie Morkel to lend them depth. If you take a look at their bowling, they have Dale Steyn, the Morkel brothers, Peterson, Botha and Tsotsobe. One needs to pick and choose carefully for the right combination and balance.
I have played on the Khettarama pitches many a time. It's generally hard and rough, and the ball can be set up for reverse swing nicely. One may question whether a ball can get ready for reverse swing in a 20-over game. I can assure you that on such a rough surface reverse swing can start happening after six-seven overs. Steyn and company will keep that in mind and if pacemen start bowling those deliveries at 90mph, it is bound to test any batsman.
This is where Pakistan batting will come into question. Pakistan have chased down a few big scores but one needs to remember that it has mostly been the top order. Pakistan's number 5, 6, 7 have not been tested severely in crunch situations. Against South African bowling, if you lose two early wickets then the middle-order will need to come into play very strongly.
If fast bowling is South Africa's strong point then spin is Pakistan's forte. Don't be surprised if Pakistan field only two fast bowlers from amongst Gul, Tanvir and Arafat and play four spinners – Hafeez, Ajmal, Afridi and young left-arm spinner Raza Hasan. They will want as much variation in the spin department to keep the opponent batsmen guessing.
What will the two captains do if they win the toss? From my viewpoint, win the toss and bat first. Firstly, it's pressure time. Secondly, batting second on a rough pitch and having to chase could be a risky proposition.
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The writer is a former Pakistan skipper