While South Africa are closing in on a semifinal berth with four wins in their kitty, Pakistan have to beat the Proteas at Chepauk on Friday to stay relevant for a semis berth going forward.And after the loss against Afghanistan on Monday, things have become doubly difficult. While Pakistan seem to be running out of ideas, South Africa are bubbling with options.
Quinton de Kock, who is an expert on Indian conditions because of his IPL experience, has been in supreme touch in the World Cup and his 174 off 140 balls in Mumbai against Bangladesh must have sent shivers down the spine of the Pakistani bowlers.
If Quinton gets going against Pakistan on Friday, it could well be game over pretty fast for the sub-continental giants. But the Pakistani management may take note of the fact that Quinton hasn’t always been very successful on Chennai tracks, where the ball stops and turns a bit.
“Finger spinners who can take the ball away from Quinton are absolutely crucial. Dhoni, leading CSK, always prefers to use off-spinners against him early on. He also looks for pacers who can vary the pace and take the ball away from the left-hander,” L Balaji, who was the CSK bowling coach from 2018-22, told TOI.
While Dhoni’s go-to since 2018 had been Harbhajan Singh and Moeen Ali against De Kock, Pakistan don’t have that quality in their ranks. Ifthikar Ahmed is the only one who bowls off-spin. Ifthikar had a long bowling stint at the practice nets on Wednesday.
What was even more interesting was to see Shadab Khan, a leggie, continuously bowling off-spin in the nets. He was seen having a discussion with coach Mickey Arthur and then the wrist-spinner shifted to finger spin. It is to be seen though if Shadab keeps doing something he is not comfortable with against the likes of Quinton and David Miller.
Along with Shadab trying finger spin, Pakistan will have left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz back. Nawaz bowled a long spell on Wednesday and it is almost a given that he will replace leggie Usama Mir in the XI.
Fakhar Zaman for extra firepower?
Explosive left-handed opener Fakhar Zaman, who is recuperating from a knee injury, had a long batting stint in the nets and one feels he may find a place in the XI.