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SHARJAH – With the result of the series already determined, the fifth ODI could fade into obscurity. However, it serves as the precursor to the return series in South Africa, which will begin later this month. If South Africa manage to win, they will take bragging rights into the three-match affair at home, but if Pakistan can pull one back, it could give them some much-needed buoyancy.
The conditions, of course, will be completely different to Cape Town, Port Elizabeth or Centurion, but it could still act as some sort of prologue. The Sharjah strip was the most spinner friendly and will be more testing for the batsmen than Abu Dhabi’s pitch was. It should favour Pakistan, but with the slew of problems facing them, they will go into the fixture needing motivation.
On the eve of the game, news broke that Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore’s contract will not be renewed. While that may not be unexpected, it has left him with something to prove in the time he has left in charge. If he can fix Pakistan’s weak batting line-up, it will be the best parting gift he can give them. South Africa have made incremental improvements, which is promising for their coach Russell Domingo. He still has work to do with the top order and will want to use this game to start fine tuning as South Africa look to find a settled combination as they build towards the World Cup.
AB de Villiers said South Africa always felt they were in with a chance against Pakistan’s middle-order batsmen, who will feel obliged to end the series on a positive note. Umar Amin, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq and Shahid Afridi have scored a combined total of 168 runs in 12 innings against South Africa, and not a single half-century between them. He could end up being the overall leading wicket-taker in the series, so Imran Tahir will want to put in a strong final effort to cap a period during which he has impressed beyond expectation.
Dashing South African opener Quinton De Kock vowed his team will go for a 4-1 win over Pakistan. The 20-year-old smashed his maiden hundred to help South Africa beat Pakistan by 28 runs in the fourth one-day. And the swashbuckling but modest left-hander said South Africa will go for the kill. “We definitely look to get it 4-1 and that is our main goal and if we do that it would be awesome,” De Kock said after team practice on Sunday. De Kock said his innings was more pleasing as it helped his team win. “It was great,” said De Kock.
“It was a 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, dropped by Mohammad Hafeez off paceman Sohail Tanvir when on three. The Gauteng born De Kock said his hard work paid off after a disappointing one-day series in Sri Lanka in July this year. “I got back and worked hard and did a lot of analysis and technical work and that is paying off. It was difficult to face Pakistani spinners, it’s always a big challenge but I am happy that the hard work is paying off,” said De Kock.
“I wouldn’t say that I have replaced Graeme, they are big shoes to fall in so I have to make sure that I meet those standards,” said De Kock. “It’s great to be in the team. All accept me what I am and it’s a great team environment.” said De Kock.
Pakistan’s newcomer Sohaib Maqsood said his team will try to salvage some pride in the final match. “It is true that the series is gone but on Monday we will have another international match and we will do our best to win it,” said Maqsood who made an aggressive 56 on debut in the fourth match. “There is huge disappointment in the camp over the series loss but we have another match to play, then two Twenty20 and then a short tour of South Africa so the focus is to do better,” said Maqsood, 26.
PAKISTAN: M Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad, Sohaib Maqsood, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Asad Shafiq, Umar Amin, Umar Akmal, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Shahid Afridi, Sohail Tanvir, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, M Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Abdur Rehman.
SOUTH AFRICA: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, JP Duminy, AB de Villiers (capt), David Miller, Ryan McLaren, Wayne Parnell, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Imran Tahir.