Sharjah: The fifth and final One Day International between Pakistan and South Africa at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium may be a dead rubber, with the latter having taken an unbeatable 3-1 lead in the five-match series, but there is still plenty to play for with the two-match Twenty20 series lined up next.
Monday’s game gives the likes of Ahmad Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Sohaib Maqsood and Shahid Afridi one more opportunity to iron out the kinks in their batting. Pakistan’s worry, throughout this series, has been the inability of their batsmen to capitalise on good starts.
Hafeez will lead Pakistan in the T20 series and he will look to prove his credentials with a big knock in this last outing. Maqsood, who made his debut in the fourth ODI, impressed with a fine 56 but his lack of experience came to the fore as Maqsood went after the bowling of Dale Steyn from the off and immediately lost his wicket. Afridi has impressed with the ball but the ‘Boom Boom’, as the player is known, was missing in his batting and he should be looking to make amends.
“We have lost the series but it’s another international game and we would like to give a good fight despite losing the series,” said Maqsood after a training session on Sunday. “The T20 series is also there and so it will be good to win this match.”
Maqsood was of the view that a half-century in his first outing has done his confidence the world of good. “I was not thinking about getting a century on debut but wanted to maintain the run rate of seven an over which we needed,” he said. “I wanted to make sure that Pakistan won the match but unfortunately, it didn’t happen.
“We lost a couple of close matches and everyone is upset but the team is really working hard. Hopefully we will produce some good results soon.”
South Africa have looked a completely different side, with Steyn joining the squad after a long injury lay-off. The speedster created havoc with the ball, claiming career-best figures of five-for-25, as the Pakistan batting line wilted under his pressure in the last two ODIs. If the South Africans opts to make use of Steyn’s services on Monday, another wicket blitz could well be on the cards.
It took nine ODIs for Quinton de Kock to make a mark and it was a performance that was enough to suggest that he belongs to the big league. De Kock had started his career with a weakness against spin and even struggled against deliveries outside off-stump. However, the century knock would have taken a huge burden off his shoulders and he will be looking to continue from where he left.
“It was great, tight knock and I enjoyed it a lot and it was more good for the team that with the match we won the series so it was good,” said De Kock.
“I got back and worked hard and did a lot of analysis and technical work and that is paying off. It was difficult and it always a big challenge. Now we definitely try and look to finish the series 4-1 and that is our main goal and if we do that it would be awesome.”