In white-ball cricket, Pakistan have held their own and could enjoy the conditions on offer
In the shadow of their Test record – 0-6 since 2010 and 1-10 since the turn of the century – Pakistan’s competitive white-ball performances in South Africa can often go by unnoticed. Under Misbah-ul-Haq‘s captaincy, they were the first subcontinent side to win a bilateral ODI series in the country in 2013-14, and either side of that lost two five-match series only in the deciding game.
Since 2010, Pakistan have a 6-7 win-loss ODI record in South Africa and have won three of six T20Is. As they have often come after the main, disheartening course of a Test series, though, those performances have felt consolatory in nature.
But as on that 2013-14 tour, white-ball cricket is the only game in town, and so Pakistan have arrived no doubt with less baggage than on previous visits. Not having to quarantine the way they did on their last tour, to New Zealand, will help lighten the mood as well: at Centurion’s Irene Country Club, where the team is staying in their biosecure bubble, they were able to enjoy some fishing, led by keen angler and batting coach Younis Khan.
Misbah is here as coach now, having experienced both the lows of Test losses and highs of white-ball wins in the country. He’s not just hoping to win both the ODI and T20I series, but also to kickstart Pakistan’s ODI Super League and push deep with their preparation for the T20 World Cup.
“I think especially with white-ball cricket, the pitches are very good, they’re true pitches, with good bounce and pace and for batters,” he said on Monday. “In white-ball cricket, it is easier to adjust to these conditions and you get good value for shots. Obviously Pakistan has also always had the luxury of good fast bowlers. That is the reason Pakistan has done well here.
“In 2013-14, when we were here, we had Junaid [Khan], [Mohammad] Irfan, then we had youngsters like Bilawal Bhatti and a couple of others. That is the reason why Pakistan like playing here. No doubt South Africa are very good, they know their conditions well. But I think these conditions help Pakistan as a whole, the batsmen especially. And obviously, there’s something psychological as well, when a team has done well here before, it helps moving forward as well to perform.”
Pakistan start with the first ODI on Friday in Centurion, and all seven games will be played there or at the Wanderers in Johannesburg. Their record at those two grounds isn’t great – they’ve lost eight out of 12 white-ball games there since the start of 2005 – but Misbah feels the true nature of surfaces there will help his batsmen. ‘If I look back when I used to play, these two wickets at Centurion and Wanderers, I really enjoyed batting on them, the bounce and the pace is very true,’ he said.
“No doubt South Africa are very good, they know their conditions well. But I think these conditions help Pakistan as a whole, the batsmen especially.”
“As a batsman you enjoy that, you get full value for your shots. Previously, in this team, some of the players have played here and performed – Imam [ul-Haq], Babar [Azam], Fakhar [Zaman] was here. These players love that pace and bounce, now [Mohammad] Rizwan is in form, a very good backfoot player. Those previous series and experiences definitely count, they play a role in your confidence as a player and team. When I was playing, suddenly, you just went to a ground where you’ve performed and your confidence level was always different.”
Pakistan have already had a couple of days of training, a bonus given how difficult it had been when they toured New Zealand and had to be in strict isolation with no training for 14 days. South Africa had their own issues this season with the mid-tour cancellation of England’s series earlier, and then Australia pulling out of a visit because of concerns over the pandemic in the country. Misbah was confident, however, of no mishaps this time.
“Both the boards are working very hard especially to keep this series going,” he said. “Players and all coaching staff are keen to just play and move forward. Obviously some measures been taken keeping in view previous series but we are hopeful that if we just look after protocols, especially the players while practising, and take responsibility, I’m pretty sure series will go on. Already we’ve been to England and New Zealand, completed series there and obviously we’d like to do the same here. We’ll do our best to complete this series.”
Bangladesh unhappy as Australia’s Covid-19 demands force Mushfiqur Rahim to miss home T20Is
According to the terms agreed to between the two boards, the senior batter can’t enter the Dhaka bio-bubble now
“It is unfair what happened with Mushfiq,” a member of Bangladesh’s tour party to Zimbabwe, told ESPNcricinfo. “We came in a commercial flight passing through three airports so I don’t know if it makes much sense to keep Mushfiq out of the series. He went back home from the middle of a tour for a family problem. So to not allow him to enter the quarantine after just two or three days, is not right.”
The BCB says it did ask CA to reconsider the stance on Rahim, but to no avail.
“The agreement between CA and BCB says that there is no chance for allowing anyone from outside into the bio-bubble,” a BCB official said. “We have to hold the series with only those inside the bio-bubble. There will be challenges but this is the new normal. I think the selectors have picked the players who are best available during this scenario. There are no alternatives but to take our best available options.”
The quarantine rules could also have an impact on the use of DRS during the series. DRS technicians sit in the same room generally with match officials but the latter have been in a ten-day quarantine period and anyone coming in from the outside – such as a DRS technician – will not be able to sit in the same room according to protocols.
“We have fulfilled the requirements for the production team. We are ready,” a BCB official said. “If the technician can work from a remote location, we will have DRS. There still remain some challenges but the technical person still has time (to be involved in the series).
“He has to comply with a three-day quarantine (according to local health directorate), but CA has a condition that whoever isn’t part of the ten-day quarantine, they can’t get into close contact with anyone who was in the quarantine. If this person can manage to do the work remotely, then we can have DRS in the playing conditions.”
The issues highlight the challenges the BCB faced for this series, in setting up two separate quarantines for match officials, hotel staff, and logistics, liaison and ground staff; the BCB has also made sure that the Australians can go to the team hotel from the airport tarmac directly. Their immigration will be processed separately, and their passports returned only after being sanitised for three days. The hotel will also be off-limits to anyone but the touring party till August 10.
The BCB had earlier agreed to hold all the five matches at the Shere Bangla National Stadium instead of at two venues.
“It is not just about CA giving us conditions and us accepting those conditions,” a board official said. “The Australia team is traveling here on a chartered flight from West Indies. It shows how serious they are about the health and welfare of players. We are only fulfilling some of their additional requirements.”
Despite all that, concern will remain. Bangladesh is currently experiencing a fresh Covid-19 wave, and the country has been in a strict lockdown. There were 258 deaths and 14,925 new cases the day before Australia’s arrival in Dhaka on Thursday. Pulling off the series without incident will be important for the BCB’s home season ahead, given New Zealand are expected to arrive in early September to play five T20Is before England travel for three T20Is and the same number of ODIs.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
SL vs IND, 2nd T20I, 2021
He trusted his lower-order team-mates to play big shots if he took the game deep
Not known for his hitting capability, the match situation was perhaps made for de Silva, who struck only two boundaries – a six and a four – and focused instead on running singles and twos. With a severely depleted India making only 132, Sri Lanka did not require huge fireworks with the bat to chase it down.
“This is what I’m meant to do for the team,” de Silva said after the match. “In the previous match as well, what I’d been told was to bat 20 overs from one side. I wasn’t able to do that in the previous game. Today was my day and I did that. If I can bat at a run-a-ball until the final overs, letting others attack around me, I can raise my strike rate towards the finish as well. That was the coach, captain and selectors’ plan.”
de Silva said the surface for this match was the slowest of the tour. It took a significant turn right through the game, with spinners picking up seven of the 11 wickets to fall. Only three sixes were struck in the entire match.
“We knew it was a slow pitch, so our target while bowling was to restrict them to 125 or 130,” he said. “Our bowlers did well and we were able to manage that. When it came to our innings, we knew that it would be tough to bat as well, but if we dragged the game out to the 20th over, the equation becomes simple and we know what we have to do. I think even a T20 match, that’s the way to do it.”
“We know that in the last four or five batters we have a few that can hit a six. Chamika, Wanindu Hasaranga, Isuru Udana and even Dushmantha Chameera can hit a big shot. What I’d wanted to do was to take the game deep, thinking that Wanindu or Chamika would be there with me to finish it off. Thankfully, Chamika was there at the end.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
The Hundred – Jofra Archer not expected to link up with Southern Brave this week
Team hopeful of having the pacer for the last four games as he continues a gradual comeback from elbow surgery
Archer has played twice for Sussex in the last 10 days, first bowling three overs in their Vitality Blast win against Kent and a further six against Oxfordshire in a 50-over warm-up match last Tuesday, but has not linked up with the Southern Brave squad since the start of the Hundred and is not expected to do so this week.
“It’s one of those where I’m staying out of it and leaving it to the experts in that area. Hopefully we do get him because it would be a big boost for us, but if we don’t, we’ve got guys who are capable here.”
An ECB spokesperson said that a further update on Archer’s fitness was expected next week but did not confirm whether he had been given a pain-killing injection in the last two days. Archer underwent elbow surgery in May following an aborted comeback from the injury at the start of the English summer.
The Brave were the pre-tournament favourites for the men’s competition but have lost both of their first two games and are already in danger of missing out on the knockout stages, with only the top three teams progressing. Mahela Jayawardene, their head coach, has regularly recovered from sluggish starts while coaching Mumbai Indians in the IPL, and Vince suggested that his recent experience with Hampshire – who squeezed into the Blast’s quarter-finals in the final round of group games – meant he was not panicking yet.
“I’m sure we’ll realise that we need to start winning soon but I’ve just been part of a Hampshire side in the Blast that got off to a bit of a slow start and then managed to play some great cricket towards the back end and get some momentum going,” he said. “I think this format will be very similar.
“We’re aware we need to improve in a few areas but we were much better [on Tuesday] and had our chance to win the game. The next three or four games coming up will be important to make sure we’re there or thereabouts come the last few.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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