Riding high on a thrilling six-run win in the opening Twenty20 International in Cape Town, South Africa will be keen to seal the series when they face Pakistan in the second game in Johannesburg on Sunday (February 3).
It won't be easy for them though as they found out at Newlands where they were pushed to the brink by Pakistan, who played like the No. 1 T20I side they are. The hosts' victory march will further be affected by the absence of their captain Faf du Plessis, the highest scorer in the opening game, who has been rested for the final two games with David Miller handed the reins of the side.
"Giving David a leadership role is another way that we are broadening our leadership resources within our respective squads. David has a wealth of experience and is a well-respected figure within the Proteas environment. The last two matches will be an opportunity for us to grow potential leaders for the future," Linda Zondi, South Africa's national selection panel convener, said.
Reeza Hendricks and du Plessis were both in their element on the day as the hosts amassed 192/6 in the first T20I. Pakistan did well to come close to the target against some rather inexperienced bowling unit but eventually fell short. Miller was exceptional in the field picking up four catches and affecting two brilliant run outs. He was awarded Player of the Match just for his fielding.
However, there are still a few areas the hosts will have to buck up if they are to seal the T20I series. They were already without Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada and Quinton de Kock for the three games and now with du Plessis also gone, South Africa have a tough task up their sleeve. Barring du Plessis (78) and Hendricks (74), none of the other batsmen hardly got going as the hosts, who at one point looked like going well past the 200-run mark, were restricted in the last five overs where they could score just 35 runs.
The bowling unit as well seemed to lack the firepower in Steyn and Rabada's absence, though Chris Morris was quite effective in the death overs. These are some of the areas stand-in captaincies Miller might have to address ahead of the key clash. While Janneman Malan could be in line for a debut, there is a chance pacer Lutho Sipamla, who had a more than impressive Mzansi Super League 2018 could make for Junior Dala in the side. Dala bowled with pace in the first T20I but was often wayward and his four wicketless overs cost South Africa 44 runs.
For Pakistan, there is good news in the form of Mohammad Hafeez, who missed the first T20I, is now back to full fitness and expected to start the game in Johannesburg. It is unclear whose place he will take in the side though. One of Talat Hussain or Faheem Ashraf looks the likely candidate to miss out at this stage.
Pakistan were quite shabby in the first 15 overs of the first innings with the ball as they gave way too many boundary balls to let du Plessis and Hendricks get away. While Imad Wasim continued with his wicket-to-wicket bowling and was rewarded with the wicket of Gihahn Cloete, most other bowlers were unable to find their straps. Only Usman Shinwari later in the death brought back some hopes with figures of 3/31 in his four overs.
Shoaib Malik, the stand-in captain, will desperately hope his bowlers don't take 15 overs to find their groove come Johannesburg where the pacers are expected to find some nip in the air.
The batting unit for the visitors looked more or less settled with Hussain, Babar Azam and Malik all scoring runs. Pakistan though will desperately wish for their big hitters in Fakhar Zaman and Asif Ali to come good in the forthcoming T20Is.
Leg-spinner Shadab Khan has also looked flat so far on the tour and he will be itching to do some sort of damage in the remaining two games. With the surface expected to do a touch, Malik might also bring in Shaheen Afridi for the game.
The weather in Johannesburg does not make for good reading with 80 percent thunderstorms predicted. Both teams in such a scenario might want to field first. South Africa have won 11 of the 18 encounters they have played at the Wanderers while Pakistan have won just two of their five T20Is on the ground. Moreover, South Africa have never lost a 20-over game to Pakistan at the venue ever.
South Africa: Gihahn Cloete, Junior Dala, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Heinrich Klaasen, David Miller (c), Chris Morris, Willem Mulder, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Rassie van der Dussen, Lutho Sipamla, Janneman Malan
Pakistan: Asif Ali, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Hussain Talat, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Sahibzada Farhan, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Shoaib Malik (c), Usman Shinwari, Mohammad Rizwan