South Africa’s T20 coach, Russell Domingo, considers Pakistan “one of the top teams in the world” in the game’s shortest format and expects a formidable challenge in the two-match series starting at Kingsmead in Durban on Friday (6pm).
The Proteas – a point above Pakistan in fifth place in the world rankings – crushed New Zealand by eight wickets at Kingsmead in December on their way to a 2-1 series win. Domingo was adamant, however, that his team faced a “much tougher” outing against the Pakistanis who will welcome back two of their T20 specialists, Shahid “Boom Boom” Afridi and Shoaib Malik, for the series.
With the next T20 World Cup in Bangladesh in March/April next year, Domingo still considers his team a work in progress with a policy of bringing in exciting young players. One decision has been made, however, with Faf du Plessis appointed the full-time captain.
“We’ve still got a dozen or so games before Bangladesh so we’re still trying out players and various combinations. We are also trying to broaden the base in introducing new talent to the national team, and the T20 squad is their arrival point. But people should be aware that players who are chosen have performed outstandingly at domestic level first.”
Domingo said he was “reasonably happy” with the way his squad performed against New Zealand, but it’s clear they will have to up a gear against Pakistan.
There are a number of changes in the squad from the New Zealand series with Dale Steyn being rested and Morné Morkel injured. Furthermore, Jacques Kallis and Hashim Amla are currently not playing in this format.
One of the most interesting decisions will concern the identity of the wicketkeeper. New cap Quinton de Kock took the gloves against New Zealand with AB de Villiers not available, but the Test and ODI wicketkeeper-batsman returns to the T20 squad for this series.
“We haven’t made a decision about who will take the gloves. That’s an issue that will be discussed over the next couple of days,” Domingo said.
Morkel’s absence provides an opportunity for the hero of the Centurion Test, Kyle Abbott. Domingo wouldn’t confirm that Abbott would play on Friday, but said that he had a “good chance” of representing his country for the first time in front of his home fans. Pace bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who has been struggling with an ankle injury for the last two months, will have a fitness test today to determine if he can play on Friday.
Proteas: Faf du Plessis (capt), Henry Davids, AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock, David Miller, Farhaan Behardien, Justin Ontong, Robin Peterson, Ryan McLaren, Kyle Abbott, Rory Kleinveldt, Chris Morris, Aaron Phangiso, Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez (capt), Nasir Jamshed, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal, Shahid Afridi, Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Ahmed Shahzad, Umar Amin, Zulfiqar Babar, Asad Ali, Junaid Khan - The Star