The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi prepares to host full member countries for the first time in a Twenty20 international with ‘hosts’ Pakistan hoping for a fresh start following the spate of controversies and bashings on the tour of England.
Following a poor tour of Australia at the start of the year, Pakistan failed to defend its World Twenty20 title, losing to Australia in the semi-finals before falling out in the round-stages of the Asia Cup. The team managed to whitewash the Australians in the two-match Twenty20 series in England before managing to snatch a draw in the two-match Test series.
However, Pakistan not only lost the Test, One-Day International (ODI) and Twenty20 series, but also the support of a lot of their fans and the respect of the opposition following the spot-fixing allegations. Despite the problems on and off the field, limited-overs captain Shahid Afridi has vowed to forget the past and start afresh in Abu Dhabi.
“My players are professional and have put the controversy behind them,” said Afridi on the eve of the first Twenty20 that sets off the ‘home’ series for Pakistan that has been shifted to the UAE due to security fears. “We know we are without two of our best bowlers in Amir and Asif but we still have ample talent to counter South Africa who are a very good side in the shorter form of the game.”
Injury worries for the tourists
South African Twenty20 captain Johan Botha agreed Pakistan will miss the talent of Asif and Amir.
“You always miss quality players and surely Pakistan will miss the two [suspended] bowlers, but we too have injury problems in the team and when such things happen other players step in,” said Botha.
Allrounder Jacques Kallis and fast bowlers Morne Morkel and Dale Styen were still recovering from various injuries and may not be able to play the first Twenty 20. Botha hoped at least two of the three players will be available for the second Twenty 20, also to be played in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.
“Playing Pakistan is always a great challenge and they knocked us out in two major Twenty20 matches,” said Botha of Pakistan’s wins over South Africa in the second and third World Twenty20 in 2009 and 2010 respectively.
Pakistan enjoy a mixed record in Abu Dhabi, winning eight of the 14 matches they have played at the venue. The two sides play the first two ODIs in Abu Dhabi before the last three limited-over matches in Dubai which will also stage the first Test, while the second will be played in Abu Dhabi. (With additional input from AFP)
Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2010.
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