Proteas face must-win game against Pakistan

Multan, October 25:

South Africa’s chances of clinching a one-day and Test series double against Pakistan will be decided when they play a fourth one-day international on Friday.

South Africa trails 2-1 in the five-match series, having already won the Test series, and must win Friday to keep the series alive. “We really want to go home with the ODI series as well,” coach Mickey Arthur said today. “It’s a final for us, a do or die game. We’ve set our team big goals on this trip and we’ve ticked the box in terms of the Test (matches).”

South Africa has lost successive matches to a rejuvenated Pakistan. The visitors struggled to form strong partnerships in the middle overs of the past two games. Experienced batsman Jacques Kallis, who scored 421 runs in two Tests, has made only 21 runs in the series so far.

“Hats off to Pakistan for bowling well in the middle overs and that’s where they have won the games,” Arthur said. “Jacques is a fantastic player, we are backing him to come out and score tomorrow.”

South Africa has struggled to cope with Pakistan spinners on slow wickets at Lahore and Faisalabad. Captain Graeme Smith is the top-scorer for them in the last two matches — but his dogged 65 off 96 balls in the second game came only after three dropped chances.

“It’s up to us to counter the pitches,” Arthur said. “They realised their strengths were in the spin department and it was one area they felt they could take advantage. They’ve prepared wickets according to that.”

The Pakistan Cricket Board has shifted the fifth and final one-day international (October 29) from Karachi to Lahore after South Africa expressed security concerns following a suicide bombing that killed at least 139 people in the port city last Thursday.

“It has not distracted the players at all. Pakistan played better than we have in the last two games,” Arthur said. That’s (security) been dealt with really well by the management. Players and myself are really satisfied that the correct procedures were followed.”

Pakistan has injury worries over their two key bowlers: paceman Mohammad Asif (elbow) and left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman (groin). “We are not overconfident,” Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik said. “All the players are backing each other and I hope we can beat them,” he added.

Asif is yet to bowl in the one-day series since injuring his bowling elbow during the second Test at Lahore earlier this month while Rehman picked up groin injury during Pakistan’s 25-run win at Faisalabad on Tuesday. “They will go through a fitness test before the match tomorrow,” Malik said.