Birmingham, June 10: Handed defeats in their respective tournament-openers, Pakistan and South Africa would be fighting to stay alive in the ICC Champions Trophy when they take on each other in their second group B match here today.
While Pakistan lost their opening match to the West Indies in a low-scoring cliffhanger, South Africa were beaten by India by 26 runs. Monday's match will be a shootout of sorts for both the teams and it is the South Africans who are looking more vulnerable despite the well-known unpredictability of the Pakistanis.
South Africa are faced with the challenge of playing Pakistan without two of their main strike bowlers as Morne Morkel has gone back home due to injury and Dale Steyn remains a "work in progress" on the fitness front. The update on Steyn is still not quite clear after the world No. 1 bowler was injured during a warm-up match against Pakistan at the Oval last Monday after bowling just five overs. Pakistan went on to win the game by five wickets.
"Dale is a work in progress as far as recovery is concerned. We can only get him to start bowling once he is symptom-free," Mohammed Moosajee, South Africa team manager and doctor, explained. Newcomer Chris Morris is almost certain to make his ODI debut against Pakistan. Morris replaced Morkel, who was forced to return home due to a groin injury.
"I've been with this team for two years. Morne has been injured once and Dale has never been injured. Now it's come together. That's a curve ball," admitted South Africa coach Gary Kirsten.
Pakistan may not have injury concerns to deal with, but Misbah-ul-Haq still has plenty of worries on his plate. Misbah was the lone batsman to put up a semblance of fight against the West Indies with a 96 not out after coming in at No. 5. He has since pleaded with his batsmen to play with more responsibility and stay on for at least the entire 50 overs.
"Even after losing three wickets [for 15 runs] at one stage, the game was under control, but then we made mistakes. So it's just about taking responsibility and taking the games to the end. The batsmen need to be more responsible and just carry on," said Misbah.
What Pakistan took confidence from was their bowling show which stifled the Windies, who made a hash of the chase before winning by two wickets.
"I think the biggest positive was our bowling. All the seamers bowled really well and bowled their heart out and took wickets. And at one time we were really in the hunt, so it's really a big positive, and it just creates pressure on the opposition," Misbah said.
If Pakistan manage to give their best in batting, they have a good chance of knocking out the 1998 champions.
Pakistan: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Imran Farhat, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Malik, Asad Shafiq, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan, M. Irfan, Asad Ali, Wahab Riaz, Umer Amin, Abdul Rehman, Ehsan Adil.
South Africa: AB de Villiers (captain), Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, David Miller, Colin Ingram, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis, Robin Peterson, Aaron Phangiso, Ryan McLaren, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Rory Kleinveldt, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Farhaan Behardien.
Match starts at 5.30PM IST