x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Pakistan and South Africa set for deciding duel

With the ODI series level at 2-2 and after the last three enthralling games, the Dubai International Cricket Stadium is likely to witness another close contest.

Dale Steyn, second from right, celebrates taking his only wicket in the fourth ODI.
Dale Steyn, second from right, celebrates taking his only wicket in the fourth ODI.

If the last three games are anything to go by then the Dubai International Cricket Stadium is likely to witness another enthralling duel today as Pakistan and South Africa battle for honours in the one-day international (ODI) series finale.

All three of those matches went to the wire with Pakistan winning two of those tense finishes, the last being a thrilling one-wicket win off the penultimate delivery on Friday night. That triumph levelled the series at 2-2 and Pakistan look a different side to the one that started the series.

After losing the Twenty20 (T20)games, Pakistan were soundly beaten by South Africa in the opening ODI before Abdul Razzaq scripted their turnaround with a century in the second game.

"A win is a win and it is always a boost for the team," Waqar Younis, the Pakistan coach, said. "Even in the third match we played pretty good cricket, except that we did not manage to win it. In the T20, we did not really play that well, but we sat down and spoke about things, including making sure we play 50 overs, which is the key."

Pakistan, however, still have a few chinks in their batting order, most notably Imran Farhat, who has failed to make much use of the opportunities that have come his way. He had scores of 10 and nine in the two T20s, and 47 and two in the ODIs.

There could be a few changes in the South Africa line-up as well.

Dale Steyn, bowling on the international stage for the first time since June, had figures of 10-0-79-1 in the last match, which is his worst return for a completed ODI quota.

Wayne Parnell, who has also played precious little cricket in recent weeks, had a tough outing too and South Africa could go back to Rusty Theron, or even Lonwabo Tsotsobe if the bowler has recovered from back spasms that ruled him out of the last match.

"Dale has been out of the game for a while," Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, said. "He is one of our frontline bowlers. Hopefully he will be better [after the last match]."

Meanwhile, Danish Kaneria, the Pakistan leg spinner, has been prevented by the Pakistan Cricket Board from joining the team in the UAE for Test matches against South Africa. "I received a call from the board late last night telling me I could not go to the UAE," Kaneria said yesterday. "They haven't given me any reason."

Police in England recently cleared Kaneria of criminal charges over allegations of spot-fixing in an English county match.

In Brisbane, meanwhile, Australia finally managed a win, after seven consecutive defeats in all forms of cricket, beating Sri Lanka by eight wickets with 170 balls to spare in the third and final ODI.

In Ahmedabad, New Zealand made a stunning comeback on the fourth day of their first Test against India, with Chris Martin taking five for 31 as the hosts slumped to 82 for six in their second innings. India lead by 110 runs and face a tough final day.