South Africa vs Pakistan 2018-19: Plenty of positives for both teams from gripping ODI series 

Andile Phehlukwayo has established himself as the premier all-rounder in the team
Andile Phehlukwayo has established himself as the premier all-rounder in the team

South Africa's quest to identify their fifteen players going to the 2019 World Cup continued with a confidence-boosting 3-2 win in the ODI series against Pakistan.

The hosts made progress in identifying more players, whether it be for the main squad or backup positions. The performances of Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, and Reeza Hendricks solidified batting options, while Tabraiz Shamsi impressed as a backup for Imran Tahir.

The fast bowling group of Dale Steyn, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, and Beuran Hendricks did not fare so well as they collectively averaged 49.09. However, only Rabada played all 5 matches whereas the likes of Steyn, Olivier, and Hendricks were rotated through the series.

The two biggest takeaways for South Africa from the series were the performances of Rassie van der Dussen and Andile Phehlukwayo. Rassie impressed with 241 runs at an average of 120.50, with 3 half-centuries. Andile solidified his claim towards the all-rounder position with 69* and 4/22 in the second match and was the leading wicket-taker in the series with 8 wickets at an average of 24.37.

Their goal for the upcoming ODI series against Sri Lanka would be to continue identifying players, particularly for the all-rounder position. While Phehlukwayo is the frontrunner at present, Wiaan Mulder, Chris Morris, and Dwaine Pretorius are also under consideration.

Pakistan bounce back from abysmal Test series

Imam-ul-Haq has established himself at the top of the order
Imam-ul-Haq has established himself at the top of the order

Pakistan recovered from a poor Test series to compete in the ODI series that followed, impressing with both bat and ball.

Imam-ul-Haq continued to impress by scoring 271 runs in the series at an average of 54.20. Imad Wasim shone with his lower order batting, twice helping Pakistan to totals their bowlers had some chance of defending. Babar Azam, Hasan Ali, Mohammed Hafeez, and Fakhar Zaman also performed well in patches.

The form of Usman Shinwari (5 wickets) and Shaheen Shah Afridi (6 wickets) bode well for Pakistan's chances at the World Cup. Conversely, the poor form of Mohammad Amir - 2 wickets in 3 matches at an average of 51 - is a problem that Pakistan will have to find a solution to quickly.

Their goal for their ODI series against Australia would be to identify backup batsmen and a backup wicket-keeper for Sarfraz Ahmed. Sarfraz finds his position as captain under question, due to his poor form (he averaged 24.40 in from 18 matches in 2018) and on-field tactics. His suspension for a racist taunt did not help matters.

The Pakistan Cricket Board's policy of naming captains on a series-by-series basis does not inspire confidence either, especially so close to the World Cup. Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez are the captaincy options should they not go with Sarfraz.

Both teams have shown that they are evenly matched and they have highly talented players who can win a game on their own. It is now a question of playing well consistently that is needed at this stage.

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Edited by Ram Kumar
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