Klaasen leads much-changed Proteas in bid to stop Pakistan run

By Sports Desk February 10, 2021

South Africa will be hoping some fresh faces can lead to a change in fortunes in Pakistan as the two nations switch focus to the Twenty20 format. 

Lahore will stage all three matches in the series, which comes after Pakistan recorded a 2-0 sweep over the same opponents in Test action. 

However, many of the Proteas who featured in that series are not involved in the T20 fixtures, including captain Quinton de Kock. 

Heinrich Klaasen is instead in charge for the tourists, while Dwaine Pretorius, Lutho Sipamla, Tabraiz Shamsi and George Linde are the only members of the squad who have stayed on after Test duty. 

The stand-in skipper insists that while South Africa may be lacking in experience, those on duty are determined to seize the opportunities that come their way during the trip. 

"South Africa has got loads of talent, which people sometimes don't see because we only have six franchises," Klaasen said. "We are by no means a second-string T20 squad, and we are looking to win." 

Klaasen revealed he is now "fit and safe" after overcoming COVID-19, though it took a heavy toll on him physically. He put up an Instagram post during his recovery to make clear the effects of the virus, in which he wrote: "Covid is real and didn't think it would be this hard to come back". 

As for Pakistan, they have named a 20-man squad that includes four uncapped players but is missing Mohammad Hafeez, who failed to come to an agreement over the date he was to enter the group's bio-secure bubble. 

Fakhar Zaman and Wahab Riaz are also notable absentees having been dropped, while Shadab Khan is ruled out through injury. 

Zafar Gohar, Danish Aziz, Zahid Mehmood and Amad Butt are the quartet of new faces, while Hasan Ali – the hero for the hosts in the second Test with 10 wickets in the match – is back involved again in the shortest format.

Pakistan go into the opening game on Thursday having won 14 of their previous 18 T20 matches on home soil (L4), including the last five in a row.


Babar right up there with the best

No matter what the format, Babar Azam is crucial to Pakistan. The right-handed batsman has scored the most amount of runs in T20 cricket at international level since the start of 2018, managing 1,213 across his 28 innings at an average of 52.7.

After a relatively quiet Test series in terms of his individual output, Babar will be eager to capitalise on a new-look South African attack that is without the services of pace trio Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi.

Positive spin to help Proteas

Shamsi is one of the few who has remained for the T20 series; the left-arm wrist spinner was ruled out of the first Test with a back injury and then did not feature in the second match.

The 30-year-old has played in 25 T20 games for South Africa, taking 21 wickets at 33.33 with an economy rate of 7.69 runs per over, and has the chance to become a pivotal member of the XI, particularly with a World Cup in the format to come in India later this year.

Key series facts

- South Africa have never lost a multi-game bilateral T20 series in Asia, winning five times out of a possible six in the continent (D1).
- Since the start of 2018, Pakistan wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed (18 catches and five stumpings) has been directly involved in the joint-most T20 dismissals among those featuring for a Test-playing nation (23 – level with Alex Carey and Tim Seifert).
- Since the start of 2018, Babar Azam has scored the most runs in the T20 format, managing 1,213 runs across his 28 innings at an average of 52.7.
- Only David Miller from the current Proteas squad has played a T20 international game in Pakistan, having represented the World XI in 2017. He has logged 20 catches in the format since the start of 2018, the third-most of those to feature for a Test-playing nation.
- Faheem Ashraf recorded more dot balls than any other player during the T20 series against New Zealand in December 2020). He has only been able to claim four wickets at an average of 41.3 in Pakistan, however.

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