Pakistan v SA

Proteas back at tainted ground

2013-10-30 11:00
Jacques Kallis (Gallo)
Cape Town – South Africa return to the once-tainted Sharjah Cricket Stadium for the first time in 13 years when they start the five-match ODI series against Pakistan there on Wednesday (13:00 SA time).

Not since March 31 2000 have they played at that particular United Arab Emirates venue, when the same foes beat the Hansie Cronje-led team in the final of the triangular Coca-Cola Cup – also featuring India – by 16 runs.

Cronje himself led the chase of 264 to win, scoring 79, and there were also half-centuries by Neil McKenzie and Mark Boucher as the South African nevertheless fell short.

That defeat was the Proteas’ second on the trot in the tournament against the Pakistanis, and those results broke a previously proud sequence of eight ODI victories in succession for South Africa at Sharjah since their debut at the venue in 1996.

Of the currently active SA players, only Jacques Kallis remains as a prior Sharjah trooper, although he is unavailable for the limited-overs portion of this tour anyway.

Although it was mostly a productive place for the Proteas, it also became clouded in controversy as match-fixing claims entered the radar more and more in the 1990s – Sharjah was seen as a hotbed of corruption.

The Indian government actually banned their national team from playing there in 2001, and no ODIs at all were held there between 2003 and 2010.

It has come back into favour, however, since security concerns at home forced Pakistan to use the Emirates as a new home base for their international contests and both the first and last of the five bilateral ODIs in this series are being played at Sharjah.

AB de Villiers’s team should find the conditions not at all dissimilar to what they have already experienced in the Test portion of the tour at Abu Dhabi and Dubai, although they will probably be grateful for the day/night format given the likelihood of customary desert heat.

The Proteas, who have not yet lost any ODI series between these two nations alone, have relatively limited selection options for the opener because of the temporary absence of Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn.

Although there will be a clamour for Vernon Philander to return to the line-up – a chance to see whether he can recreate his Test magic in the one-day landscape – he is probably not guaranteed a start just yet, with space likely to be made for two lower-order all-rounders in Ryan McLaren and Wayne Parnell (important given their specialist batting fragility in recent months).

The latter has been in welcome, hungry mode in the domestic Momentum One-Day Cup, and there will probably be great desire by the coaching staff to get him firing as quickly as possible again at a higher level.

Stalwart Robin Peterson, given the extra skills he offers both as a fielder and batsman, may well hold off at this stage the challenge of leggie Imran Tahir for the main spinning berth, though be under some pressure to make an impact.

South Africa’s team should not differ much from this: Graeme Smith, Quinton de Kock, JP Duminy, AB de Villiers (c), Faf du Plessis, David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

Read more on:    proteas  |  pakistan v sa  |  jacques kallis  |  cricket

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