Abu Dhabi: Pakistan seek to regroup after their recent troubles to take on a strong and in-form South Africa in the first of their T20 internationals at the Zayed Cricket Stadium Tuesday night.
Fresh from their 3-0 rout of Zimbabwe, the Proteas, like the Pakistanis, will be looking to use the series as a build-up to the World Cup.
Though they will be making their debut both here and in Dubai, the Proteas will remember that their last meeting against Pakistan in Sharjah had ended in a loss.
It was the Coca Cola Cup final and the South Africans, led by the late Hansie Cronje, lost by 16 runs in the final in March 2000. It was also Cronje's last ever appearance for his team for after that he was charged with match-fixing and banned for life.
The South Africans, who are yet to lay their hands on the World Cup despite flattering to deceive so many times, will be playing five ODIs in the UAE and another five against India before the big event in the Indian sub-continent. Johan Botha leads them in the two T20 internationals while skipper Graeme Smith takes over in the one-dayers.
Despite Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis and Mornie Morkel being on the injured list, Botha has not had much to worry as newcomers Colin Ingram, Rusty Theron and Lonwabe Tsotsobe have acquitted themselves admirably in recent matches. "We are going to miss some of our quality players but the young guys we have got here; they have done a lot for us in recent games. We have a nice, fresh young team here," said Botha.
A.B de Villiers will be donning the gloves, a move which Smith said will give the team an extra option. "Obviously it offers us more options tactically to look at. Having the spot to play an extra player offers you the opportunity look at other parts of the game that you would like to take advantage of," added Smith.
Unlike South Africa , Pakistan will be playing under a lot of pressure though they will be happy that they are here in their second ‘home.' The team received much flak after the recent losses, corruption and fixing charges and player suspensions.
Shahid Afridi does have a lot of burden on his broad shoulders but so does every player in the squad.
Pakistan (from): Shahid Afridi (capt), Imran Farhat, Mohammad Hafeez, Shahzaib Hasan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Abdul Razzaq, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Wahab Riaz, Abdur Rehman, Shoaib Akhtar, Tanvir Ahmed, Zulqarnain Haider
South Africa (from): Johan Botha (capt), Loots Bosman, AB de Villiers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Colin Ingram, Jacques Kallis, David Miller, Graeme Smith, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Rusty Theron, Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Do you think Pakistan will see their regular crowd support? Will this series help both teams prepare for the ICC World Cup?