x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

South Africa's biggest problem: who to leave out of team

As a sign of their strength, the South Africans are trying to work out how to shoe-horn Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn into their starting line-up.

The contrasting fortunes of Pakistan and South Africa could barely be any more stark going in to today's opening one-day international in Abu Dhabi.

While Pakistan, riven by injury, unavailability and low-morale after a Twenty20 whitewash, scratch around looking for a morsel of cheer, their opponents are experiencing a problem of plenty.

As a sign of their strength, the South Africans are trying to work out how to shoe-horn Jacques Kallis and Dale Steyn - the world ranked No 6 batsman and No 1 bowler respectively - into their starting line-up. They are both nearing full-fitness after arriving in the UAE nursing injuries. Steyn bowled at around 90 per cent of full capacity in warming up ahead of Wednesday night's match T20 match, and Kallis, the all-rounder, should be ready to return as a batsman at least.

If they are given recalls it will mean changing not solely a winning combination, but a well-oiled machine on the evidence of the T20 series.

"It is going to be tough [leaving someone out]," said Johan Botha, the T20 captain who will hand the reins back to Graeme Smith for the 50-over series.

"If you look at the way the guys outside the team have worked so far, before every match they are putting in the work.

"The guys who might get left out have done what they needed to. They have put in the performances and that is all you can ask of a player.

"If they put in a performance and get left out, that is credit to them. Whenever there is a little gap when someone is lacking in form, that guy will be back.

"It is good to be in that situation. We have 15 guys pushing for 11 slots."

In the opposition dressing room, Shahid Afridi could do with some help as he tries to rally his beleaguered side.

At least he will be able to call on some added experience to share the burden, as Younus Khan returns to the line-up for the first time following a ban.

"I have been worrying about the performance of the others a little too much, and haven't been concentrating on my own performances," Afridi said after he twice missed out with the bat in the T20 matches.

"I'm not giving an excuse. I need to perform because my performances are always very important for the team. If I had batted better, we would definitely have won."

pradley@thenational.ae