x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Pakistan deny Misbah and Hafeez rift ahead of South Africa ODI series

Talk of captains of different formats clashing seen as attempt to 'demoralise' the team while Proteas rest Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn.

Pakistan cricket authorities forcefully denied reports of differences between Misbah-ul-Haq and Mohammad Hafeez ahead of the five-match one-day series against South Africa starting today.

Pakistani media reported a serious dispute between the one-day captain Misbah and Twenty20 counterpart Hafeez over the selection of the team.

"Misbah and Hafeez have developed serious differences over the selection of the final XI and it has come to an extent that both are not on talking terms," leading Urdu newspaper Jang reported, quoting sources in the team.

Former paceman Sikander Bakht said Hafeez wants to displace Misbah as one-day captain.

"Hafeez scored 86 in the Twenty20 win so he must be flying high and now wants to take over as one-day captain," Bakht said in a television interview, referring to Hafeez's match-winning knock in Pakistan's 95-run win at Centurion last Sunday.

But the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said it conducted an inquiry with the team management and found the reports were baseless.

"The PCB high-ups launched a thorough inquiry, contacted the team management in South Africa and it was discovered that no such disagreement whatsoever existed among the think tank, or between Misbah and Hafeez," the PCB said in a statement.

"It is therefore stated for the record that all such isolated reports in the media are baseless and an attempt to demoralise the team," said the PCB.

Meanwhile, Gary Kirsten, the South Africa coach, is aiming for his side's one-day performances to replicate those in the Test arena.

Since Kirsten took over coach in June 2011 the country's Test team has risen relentlessly to the top of the ICC rankings.

The performances of the one-day side, though, have been patchy at best.

South Africa were beaten 2-1 at home by New Zealand in their most recent one-day series after winning both Tests against the Black Caps by an innings.

A five-match series against Pakistan, starting at Chevrolet Park, marks a change of focus for the Proteas, who have slipped to fourth in the rankings for the 50-over format. Pakistan are sixth.

Kirsten said South Africa could play as many as 20 ODIs before their next Test series, against Pakistan in the UAE in October and November.

"It's nice to have an extended period of one-day internationals," he said. "This is an important period for the ODI team."

Hashim Amla, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Test captain Graeme Smith all return to the South Africa squad, although fast bowler Steyn will be rested for today's match.

Fellow paceman Morkel is doubtful because of a hamstring injury while leading all-rounder Jacques Kallis, 37, is being rested.