ICC Champions Trophy 2017: South Africa vs Pakistan, 5 players to watch out for

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 03:  Wayne Parnell of South Africa bowls during the ICC Champions Trophy match between Sri Lanka and South Africa at The Kia Oval on June 3, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
Wayne Parnell will be expected to rattle the Pakistan top order
rohit sankar

South Africa are just a victory away from sealing a semi-final spot as they take on Pakistan at Edgbaston. Pakistan, meanwhile, are on the cusp of being eliminated after losing their opening game against India by a huge margin.

South Africa crushed Sri Lanka in their opening game courtesy Hashim Amla and Imran Tahir but know that they need to regroup with bat and ball against stronger opponents. Their batting collapse in the middle overs and lacklustre bowling with the new ball poses a few problems but they would be pleased with the intensity on the field.

Pakistan have numerous issues after the embarrassing loss to India. Their batting came a cropper against the Indian bowlers and will once again be the focus against the Proteas. What will work in their favour though are the overhead conditions and their pace bowling. If that clicks, Pakistan might just punch above their weight, though it seems unlikely at the moment.

Here are five players to watch out for from the clash at Birmingham.

#5 Wayne Parnell

The once unsteady and inconsistent Wayne Parnell has made rapid strides in limited-overs cricket since making a comeback to the side. He has shared the new ball with Rabada in 10 out of 13 games since coming back and has 18 wickets at an economy just under 6, a considerable improvement from his show prior to being dropped.

Swing is Parnell's biggest weapon but he is unlikely to find that in this tournament which means that his ability to bowl consistent channels will come under scrutiny. He struggled against Sri Lanka with the new ball but returned to concede just nine in his last five overs. That is the kind of spell South Africa need from him at the start.

Record against Pakistan

Matches - 5, Wickets - 8, BBI - 3/36, Avg - 26.12

#4 Azhar Ali

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - JUNE 04:  Virat Kohli of India celebrates as Ravindra Jadeja  captures the wicket of Azhar Ali of Pakistan during the ICC Champions Trophy match between India and Pakistan at Edgbaston on June 4, 2017 in Birmingham, England.  (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)
Azhar Ali was the lone bright spot for Pakistan against India

Pakistan's sole hope at the top of the order, Azhar Ali, managed to combat India's bowling with his strong defense and impeccable technique. However, the fall of wickets at the other end mounted the pressure on him. He may not be the ideal opener in modern One Day cricket but is a real saviour for an unstable team like Pakistan.

Ali will need to take Pakistan through a tricky opening spell against Rabada and Parnell. If he can do that, Pakistan will fancy their chances against Morkel and Tahir in the middle overs. Much of Pakistan's success tomorrow will depend on how long Ali can stay in the middle.

Record against Proteas

Ali is yet to play an ODI against the South Africans.

#3 JP Duminy

HOVE, ENGLAND - MAY 19: JP Duminy of South Africa hits out while Sussex wicket keeper Michael Burgess looks on during the Tour Match between Sussex and South Africa at The 1st Central County Ground on May 19, 2017 in Hove, England. (Photo by Charlie Crowhurst/Getty Images)
Duminy's finishing skills came to the fore against Lanka. Can he do it on a consistent basis?

The highly criticised JP Duminy started for the Proteas ahead of Farhaan Behardien against Sri Lanka and justified his selection with a quickfire 38 off 20 balls that took South Africa from an average total to an above par one. He has been picked consistently for that kind of an innings but it has rarely materialised from the southpaw.

With the Edgbaston surface expected to be a belter, it remains to be seen how many overs Duminy gets to bat from no.6 but he has been known to shut down criticism with his bat in the past and the knock against Sri Lanka further emphasised that. He might also be called upon to deliver a couple of overs if one of the frontline bowlers has an off day.

Record against Pakistan

Matches - 17, Runs - 481, HS - 64, Batting Avg - 37.0, Wickets - 4, BBI - 2/14

#2 Mohammad Amir

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 13:  Mohammad Amir of Pakistan celebrates taking the wicket of David Warner of Australia during game one of the One Day International series between Australia and Pakistan at The Gabba on January 13, 2017 in Brisbane, Australia.  (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
His opening spell could well decide the game

Mohammad Amir's role in the side is pretty clear. He has to get wickets upfront and put pressure on the opposition. What makes Amir even more important for Pakistan in this game is the presence of Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla at the top for the Proteas.

The pair has been one of the best at the top in ODI cricket in recent times and more often than not provided South Africa with good starts. Amir will be relied upon to break the opening partnership early with the new ball. If he can get one or both of them, South Africa will be under pressure early on. The spinners can then be used to put a lid on the runs. But if Amir has an off day, Pakistan will struggle to restrict the dynamic top 4 of the Proteas.

Record against Proteas

Amir is yet to play against South Africa which makes him a rather big weapon against them. Late swing akin to Mitchell Starc isn't something South Africa are fond of facing.

#1 AB de Villiers

LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 03:  AB de Villiers of South Africa bats during the ICC Champions Trophy match between Sri Lanka and South Africa at The Kia Oval on June 3, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
AB de Villiers has a superb record against Pakistan and should be in the limelight yet again

The South African skipper seemed to be in too much of a hurry against the Sri Lankans and threw his wicket away to Seekkuge Prasanna. He has no hundreds this year in spite of being in exceptional touch. He was among the top five run-getters of the year going into the tournament but a century has eluded the dynamic batsman.

Pakistan need to be wary of Mr. 360. His confidence will be sky high after his superb performance on the field against Sri Lanka and an open-minded de Villiers often spells DANGER. The Birmingham pitch is a belter which means that there may be nothing to contain the right-hander. If he gets going, Pakistan will be on an early flight back home. He boasts an incredible record against them too.

Record against Pakistan

Matches - 31, Runs - 1423, HS - 128, Avg - 61.86

Edited by Staff Editor


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