x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Depleted South Africa to play to strengths in crucial tie against Pakistan

Pakistan batting is susceptible against even as Dale Steyn remains highly doubtful to play.

Nasir Jamshed, right, was among the runs in the last game against West Indies, but South Africa will be tougher opponents. Alexander Joe / AFP
Nasir Jamshed, right, was among the runs in the last game against West Indies, but South Africa will be tougher opponents. Alexander Joe / AFP

South Africa captain AB de Villiers has all but confirmed that Dale Steyn will miss today's Champions Trophy match against Pakistan.

The game is a must-win situation for both after Pakistan collapsed to a lowly total of 170 against West Indies, while South Africa lost by 26 runs after India had put up 331 runs in the high-scoring opening game of the campaign. The Proteas have already sent Morne Morkel home injured from the competition and were unable to call on Steyn in that opening defeat on Thursday due to a side strain.

De Villiers stopped just short of ruling out the much-feared paceman for the follow-up match at Edgbaston, but gave little chance of a recovery.

"The final decision hasn't been made yet, but it's not looking good," he said.

"Chances are that he'll only be ready for the last game. We're still hanging on to that last little bit of hope that he could wake up tomorrow morning and do a bit of a fitness test and look good for the game, but it's not looking good at all."

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq said South Africa remained a strong side even without their two premier fast bowlers. "They won a game against us when both Steyn and Morkel weren't playing in South Africa," Misbah said.

In March, South Africa beat Pakistan 3-2 in a home one-day series, but only after Misbah's men levelled at 2-2.

"They are a quality side, and at the moment their strength is their batting, so we just can't relax. I think we need to really play well, really give a 100 per cent, and then we have a good chance."

The Proteas have called up Chris Morris, 26, a seamer who has played two Twenty20 matches for South Africa, but has yet to appear in a one-day international, as Morkel's replacement.

De Villiers, having seen the way England beat Australia by 48 runs in a Group A encounter at Edgbaston on Saturday, reckoned pace was still the way forward.

"It looked a similar kind of wicket to the one we'll be playing on," he said. "The one spinner for England, [James] Tredwell bowled really well, but it was the seamers, who started reversing the ball, who really restricted the batters and made them look like they can't get it off the square."

The wicketkeeper-batsman believes now is the not the time for the Proteas to change tactics.

"We are not going to change too much. I very well remember the 2007 World Cup [in the West Indies], where we played Australia in the semi-finals and tried to change strategy.

"We tried to take it to them and the next minute we were 20 for five.

"We are going to stick to our game plans. We believe if we play to our full potential, we believe we can beat any team here."

For Pakistan, who trained in Abbotabad to replicate the cold conditions of England, the top-order batting remained an area of concern. Misbah, who hit 96 not out against West Indies, could only express hope.

"This is a trend of passing teams over the years. I think before it was Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf," he said.

"So, as a senior player, you have to take the responsibility, but it's really good if some of the other guys come to the party and do their job."

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