South Africa are staring at an opportunity to take the ODI series against Pakistan. Riding on consistent performances and middle-order revivals, they can make the one-day game very difficult for the Pakistanis. However, there is still work to be done, namely in the fielding department. The number of missed run-out chances and spilled catches will no doubt be haunting the Proteas and they will have to tighten up that aspect of their game if they are to prevail in today's match.
The bowling could also be a worry for South Africa as their premier paceman conceded 56 runs in powerplay during the previous match, allowing Pakistan the opportunity to crawl back into the match. They will have to bowl with a lot more consistency if they are to make life hard for the Pakistanis.
The probable return of speedster Dale Steyn should help to that end, but Lonwabo Tsostsobe's withdrawal owing to a back spasm will hurt the Proteas. Tsotsobe has greatly impressed in the last three matches, bowling hostile opening spells and getting the ball to curve and bounce. He has also bowled with great economy, giving away runs at a stingy 3.13. Meanwhile, captain Graeme Smith has recovered to the blow on his hand in the first game and will return to the top of the batting.
Pakistan once again find themselves against the ropes and will have to pull out all the stops today to bring about another series leveller. The side will have to once again rely on their spinners to do the trick in the middle overs while Shoaib Akhtar will have to fulfill his role as a strike bowler and give Pakistan a good start. But the biggest concern is Pakistan's batting. The team needs a good solid start while the middle order will have to build on that foundation without leaving too much for the latter order to do.
Among the key-men for Pakistan, will be Fawad Alam who showed in Tuesday's match that he is a force to reckon with. He just lacked the killer instinct at the death overs, but his build-up to that point was indeed very threatening to the Proteas. For South Africa, the man to watch out for will be pace bowler Wayen Parnell. He may not have been at his best in October's series against Zimbabwe, but is undoubtedly growing in confidence. A lot of responsibility will rest on his shoulders in the absence of Tsotsobe. Parnell has also shown that he can be a useful bat lower down the order and has a safe pair of hands as well.
Pakistan might bring in Umar Akmal in place of Asad Shafiq, who has failed to impress at the top of the order in the last three games. With Umar Gul out with an injury, Wahab Riaz has filled in admirably for him. But captain Shahid Afridi indicated that the slow left arm Abdur Rehman might come in for Saeed Ajmal who hasn't been very effective. As the leading wicket taker at the Dubai venue with 10 scalps, Afridi's own role with be paramount.
The pitch at the Dubai venue is known to be slow, but after the wear and tear of Tuesday's match, there may be some surprises in it for both the pacemen and spinners. A large total is not likely on this wicket as South Africa's 228/9 on Tuesday was the highest score here.