South Africans wary of Pakistan’s strength

Mohali, October 26:

Graeme Smith’s confidence is growing now that his South Africa lineup gets a pitch that suits its pace attack and is familiar to its batsmen. The only problem, as he sees it, is that Group B rival Pakistan already has had one match and eight days to come to grips with the pace and bounce of it.

The winner of Friday’s match will enter to the semi-finals with New Zealand, which has advanced following its win over Pakistan on Wednesday. The bouncy pitches at Mohali’s PCA Stadium are a sharp contrast to the dusty and crumbling pitches at other venues of the biennial Champions Trophy, where aggressive stroke-makers struggled and run-grafting became a feature.

“The key to success in this tournament would be in adapting to conditions — the team that adapts best on the day will have an advantage,” said Smith.

Pakistan also defeated Sri Lanka in its first outing, just a day after its strike bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were expelled for failing doping tests.

Smith said his bowlers had gained a lot of confidence by bundling out Sri Lanka cheaply when chasing a modest total. Smith admitted he did not know exactly what to expect from Pakistan, which is guided by former England Test batsman Bob Woolmer. “Pakistan’s volatile one day, and brilliant the other,” he said. Woolmer said Pakistan team needs to be more consistent, and must learn to seize the opportunity. “There were at least three stages in the game against New Zealand when we could have taken control and won easily, but unfortunately we didn’t,” Woolmer said. “My players know what went wrong, we played very average cricket. One-day cricket is a bit of lottery, but we now need to produce our best form. The stakes are high. We know what we have to do, and so does South Africa.”

Woolmer said the Pakistani players needed to react to pressure the way they did against Sri Lanka, when the squad was reduced to 12 players before the replacements for Akhtar and Asif arrived.

Skipper Younis Khan said the pressure in Friday’s must-win situation was nothing compared with what his team tackled in the first outing. “Some teams would have cracked under pressure faced by us then,” Khan said. “If we could emerge victorious then, we sure can do so now.”