The first set of warm-up fixtures for the Cricket World Cup kicked off earlier today with South Africa squaring off against Sri Lanka in Cardiff and Asian neighbours Pakistan and Afghanistan locking horns in Bristol. Interestingly enough, the side winning the toss ended up losing in both fixtures. Here are our talking points from the two games.
A much needed half century for Hashim Amla
Given his sketchy performances over the last year and the burden of personal circumstances (his father hasn’t been keeping well), there were some doubts over whether Hashim Amla should’ve been aboard the plane to England. The veteran however remains a classy player, and his 65 (61) would’ve boosted his confidence ahead of the main tournament.
Faf du Plessis and Andile Phehlukwayo again instrumental in South Africa victory
Both Du Plessis and Phehlukwayo have established themselves as mainstays of the Proteas ODI team over the last couple of years. While not quite in the same league as AB de Villiers, Du Plessis has taken his game to a new level in the last 18 months, and is South Africa’s best batsman in their current XI. He again top scored for his side with a fantastic 88 (69)
Young Phehlukwayo has established himself as South Africa’s premier all-rounder, and punctured Sri Lanka’s chase with 4/36 in his 7 overs, including the key wicket of the in-form Kusal Mendis.
The weaknesses remain weaknesses for South Africa
Chris Morris’ inconsistency with the ball and David Miller’s struggles against sub-continental opposition are well documented, and both again failed to deliver against the Lankans. Miller was the only player not to get into double figures, while Morris, while impressive with the bat, was again wayward with the ball.
Pakistan’s power-hitting is very dependent on Asif Ali
Pakistan perhaps have three players in this side who can hit from the ball go- Fakhar Zaman, Asif Ali and Imad Wasim. With Ali unavailable and Zaman falling cheaply, Pakistan didn’t quite have the firepower to cross 300. They were 203/4 in the 38th over, and only managed 262 in the end. It’s a major area of concern for Micky Arthur. Babar Azam was magnificent, but cricket is a team game, and Pakistan’s batting, it appears, hasn’t exactly kept pace with the times. Losses to Australia and England were fine, but this defeat to Afghanistan, albeit in a warm-up, will definitely hurt.
Wahab Riaz provides a timely reminder of why he was selected
Wahab Riaz nearly snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for Pakistan with his fantastic 48th over. Displaying both pace and reverse swing, he knocked over both Afghan skipper Gulbadin Naib and Najibullah Zadran, and nearly had Rashid Khan as well. Wahab’s abilities with the ball are sometimes Wasim-esque, and with his spell here, he might have just walked into the Pakistan XI ahead of their tournament opener against the West Indies.