Hashim Amla makes runs without fuss, killing oppositions with class and elegance and he'll be Pakistan's biggest concern. © Getty

Hashim Amla makes runs without fuss, killing oppositions with class and elegance and he’ll be Pakistan’s biggest concern. © Getty Images

Group B: South Africa v Pakistan
Date: Wednesday, 7 June 2017
Venue: Edgbaston, Birmingham

72 matches; South Africa 47 wins; Pakistan 24 wins; No result 1

It’s the clash of the sides who are at the extremes in the tournament. South Africa are No. 1 in the ODI rankings. Pakistan are No. 8, and just about managed to get through.

That in itself tells the entire story of who the overwhelming favourites are for Wednesday’s clash. South Africa come into the game knowing a victory could seal their spot in the knockouts. They began their campaign with a victory over Sri Lanka – a fairly comfortable one at that despite being stretched at times. That they managed to overcome all the challenging phases should hold them in good stead.

On the other hand, Pakistan have quite a lot of negative vibes around their campaign after losing to arch-rivals India in their first match. More than the defeat, it was Pakistan’s abject surrender that disappointed. Their bowlers hardly looked threatening, their fielding was shoddy and less said about the batting the better. They’re now left with the tough job of picking themselves up for another big game, against an equally tough opponent.

But there’s no reason why Pakistan can’t lift their game. They did that the previous time the two sides met – at the World Cup 2015 in Auckland when the bowlers delivered a brilliant win. Pakistan’s followers would be hoping that their side can produce an encore. A victory here will not only keep them alive, but also make Group B so much more interesting.

This, unfortunately, isn’t looking too promising, as has been the case over the last few days. There is possibility of rain on Wednesday evening, which could affect the second half of the game.

The previous two games at the venue were also affected by rain, with one of them, Australia v New Zealand, ending without a result.

It’s also the second and last day-night game of the tournament; the first day-night game, Australia v Bangladesh on Monday, was ruined by inclement weather and ended with Australia denied an easy win.

But if rain does stay away, the pitch should produce some runs. In the two games here, New Zealand made 291 in 45 overs and India 319 in 48, but a used pitch could also bring in spinners. That Pakistan are handing an ODI debut to Fakhar Zaman, the left-arm spinner, at the expense of Ahmed Shehzad should give a hint.

Mohammad Amir v Hashim Amla
If Pakistan are to have a chance in the game, they have to get past this man. He makes runs without fuss, killing oppositions with class and elegance. He is in great form as well – as he almost always is – beginning the tournament with a record 25th ODI century.

To stop Amla, Pakistan will look to Amir. The left-arm pacer was the only bowler to threaten India even remotely, although he went wicketless. Amir is now the spearhead of the attack in Wahab Riaz’s absence, and the onus of giving an early breakthrough completely lies on his shoulders.

South Africa: JP Duminy
Duminy had a quiet build-up to the tournament, but started it with a crucial cameo in the first game. South Africa were losing momentum in the death overs until Duminy played an underrated beauty, shifting the momentum. On a pitch that could help spinners, his off-spin could come in handy too.

Pakistan: Shadab Khan
Shadab is just 18 years old and four ODIs into his career, but there is already an air of expectation around him from Pakistan cricket followers after a good tour of the West Indies. With lovely flight and a well-disguised wrong one, Shadab is a classical legspinner who stays with the modern times with subtle variations.

Shadab bowled reasonably well against India and could be a threat if the pitch offers him more. For it’s no secret that South Africa do not exactly enjoy playing spin, particularly legspin.

Quinton de Kock

“They normally score at a strike-rate of 100 without even trying,” said AB de Villiers of South Africa’s openers after the previous game. While one of the openers, Amla, made it big, de Kock managed only a subdued 23. He’ll be itching to break free, so watch out Pakistan!

South Africa
(from): Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wk), Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers (capt), Jean-Paul Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Dwaine Pretorius, Keshav Maharaj, Farhaan Behardien, Morne Morkel.

Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (capt, wk), Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Hasan Ali, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Hafeez, Shadab Khan, Shoaib Malik, Junaid Khan, Fakhar Zaman.