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Pakistan seek return to T20 glory days against South Africa

Monitoring Desk

LAHORE: Pakistan are hoping to turn their Twenty20 fortunes around when they take on a depleted South Africa in a three-match series starting in Lahore on Thursday.

The hosts have won just one of their last eight Twenty20 series, with victory coming against lowly Zimbabwe. But they are seeking a return to the form that saw them win 11 series in a row from September 2016 to November 2018, lifting them to the top of the world rankings.

Pakistan’s spirits are riding high after beating South Africa by 95 runs in Rawalpindi on Monday to take the two-match Test series 2-0 — their first win over South Africa since 2003. South Africa will be without regular skipper Quinton de Kock, as well as established stars such as Faf du Plessis, Rassie van der Dussen, Kagiso Rabada and Lungi Ngidi.

They returned home as scheduled after the second Test to prepare for a tour by Australia, but that has now been postponed because of the critical coronavirus situation in South Africa. Still, Pakistan’s bowling coach Waqar Younis refused to take the new-look South Africa side lightly.

“They are an international team and we need to play to our potential to finish a perfect season,” he said. Pakistan have left out senior batsman Mohammad Hafeez because of his commitments to the T-10 league in Abu Dhabi. He has been in supreme form recently, scoring 415 runs in 10 matches with an average of 83.00 and a strike rate of 152.57 — the most by any player last year.

South Africa will be led by wicketkeeper-batsman Heinrich Klaasen, who hopes his newcomers will grab their opportunity. “South Africa has got loads of talent, which people sometimes don’t see because we only have six franchises,” he said.

“We are by no means a second-string T20 squad, and we are looking to win.” Klaasen knows the toll Covid-19 has taken on global cricket having recovered from the virus himself. “I am fit and I am safe — and I can play cricket again,” he said.

“For the last three weeks, I have been able to train really hard in South Africa and now I am on course.” The second and third matches of the series are on Saturday and Sunday, also in Lahore.

Squads (from): Pakistan: Babar Azam (captain), Haider Ali, Khushdil Shah, Hussain Talat, Danish Aziz, Asif Ali, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz, Zafar Gohar, Faheem Ashraf, Aamer Yamin, Amad Butt, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain, Hasan Ali, Usman Qadir, Zahid Mahmood

South Africa: Heinrich Klaasen (captain), Nandre Burger, Okuhle Cele, Junior Dala, Bjorn Fortuin, Reeza Hendricks, George Linde, Janneman Malan, David Miller, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dwaine Pretorius, Ryan Rickelton, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lutho Sipamla, Jon-Jon Smuts, Pite van Biljon, Glenton Stuurman, Jacques Snyman.