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South Africa vs Pakistan 1st ODI Preview: Both teams embark on 2023 ODI World Cup journey with new pieces in place

Pakistan's Babar Azam
Pakistan's Babar Azam

This is the first time that Temba Bavuma will captain South Africa after taking over from Quinton de Kock.

Live Scores and Stats - South Africa v Pakistan 1st ODI

Preparations begin for 2023 ODI WC

Both Pakistan and South Africa have not played a lot of ODI cricket since the 2019 ODI World Cup. South Africa have been part of a couple of 3-match ODI series against England and Australia while Pakistan have played just 5 ODIs since the showpiece event, two against Sri Lanka and three against Zimbabwe.

Clearly, both the teams have not had enough matches under their belt and a full-strength side available to begin their preparations for the 2023 ODI World Cup. This series, though with little context, will be a big building block in the ODI scheme of both sides.

Apart from that, there is a small matter of 30 World Cup Super League points up for grabs as well.

Pakistan likely to run South Africa close

Pakistan and South Africa have played a total of 79 one-day matches against each other out of which South Africa have won 50 and Pakistan have won 28.

In the ODIs played in South Africa, Pakistan have won 12 and South Africa have won 21 out of 34 matches. However, Pakistan have managed to give South Africa a tough fight in the last few away ODI series and the 3-match affair is by no means a done deal.

Pakistan coach Misbah-ul-Haq is confident of the team's chances in the series, especially this time that they do not have the examination of test cricket to combat.

"I think especially with white-ball cricket, the pitches are very good, they're true pitches, with good bounce and pace and for batters," the Pakistan coach said. "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. I think these conditions help Pakistan as a whole, the batsmen especially."

All eyes on Hasan Ali, Fakhar and Imam

Pakistan finally have openers Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq fit and available. While Zaman had tested positive for COVID-19 just before Pakistan flew to New Zealand, Imam-ul-Haq suffered a broken thumb during practice on the New Zealand tour and was ruled out of the series.

Skipper Babar Azam will continue to bat at No 3 with young and upcoming batsman Haider Ali at No 4. Mohammad Rizwan has hit a rich vein of form and will bat at No 5, followed by all-rounders Faheem Ashraf and Shadab Khan.

With Imad Wasim not part of the squad, Mohammad Nawaz is expected to play as the spin bowling all-rounder. Shaheen Shah Afridi will lead the Pakistan pace attack and his wickets first up will play a crucial role in giving Pakistan the momentum. Hasan Ali, after having recovered from a spate of injuries, will play his first ODI since the one against India in the 2019 ODI World Cup.

Despite putting in good performances with the bat, Shadab Khan has struggled with the ball and his dip in form has coincided with Usman Qadir's rise in Pakistan cricket. Qadir will also be part of the Pakistan playing XI.

SA pace trio of Rabada, Ngidi and Nortje back together

South Africa are likely to open with Janneman Malan and Quinton de Kock. De Kock will no longer have the burden of captaincy on his shoulders. South Africa's middle order will comprise Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram and Temba Bavuma, with newly appointed captain Bavuma expected to take more responsibility.

They will be followed by all-rounders JJ Smuts and Andile Phehlukwayo. South Africa will welcome their three leading pacers Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi and Anrich Nortje who are expected to feature together after a long time. Tabraiz Shamsi will be South Africa's leading spinner.

Here's the probable playing XI of both teams:

- Fakhar Zaman, Imam-ul-Haq, Babar Azam (c) , Haider Ali, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Faheem Ashraf, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Shaheen Afridi, Hasan Ali, Usman Qadir

South Africa - Janneman Malan, Quinton de Kock (wk), Rassie van der Dussen, Aiden Markram, Temba Bavuma (c), JJ Smuts, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Tabraiz Shamsi

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