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South Africa v Pakistan ICC Champions Trophy Preview

A win or bust match just two games into the tournament is hardly what South Africa cricket fans were expecting from their heroes in this ICC 50-over Championship and yet that’s the worrying scenario for the Proteas as they scrap for survival with Pakistan at Edgbaston tomorrow

South Africa have built up something of a reputation of choking on the big occasion, but to be fair, little has gone right for them this time. Regarded by many as likely champions and pre-tournament favourites with most bookmakers, they were always going to struggle to live up to expectations without their captain, Graeme Smith, and world-class all-rounder, Jaques Kallis and they have been hampered further by injuries this week to quickies Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

Steyn should be back for this second game (Morkel won’t be), but irreparable damage may already have been done to their Championship chances by their defeat to India, whose 331 proved 20 runs too many for them in the Group B opener in Cardiff last Thursday.

It should, however, be stressed that on-song India are the current top-ranked 50-over side in the world; South Africa did well to get as close as they did to an imposing target and there were times when it seemed they might actually make it.

Pakistan’s defeat at the hands of the West Indies on Friday was of a different nature altogether, but again the losers acquitted themselves well in trying to defend their low score (170) and this was another game that might have gone the other way.

The worry for Pakistan was that Nasir Jamshed (50) and captain Misbah-ul-Haq (96 not out) were the only ones to make it into double figures – the other nine batsmen scored a paltry 18 runs between them.

Pakistan beat South Africa quite convincingly in a warm-up match last week, but it may well be a different story now the gloves are off. Coral’s 4/6 looks a fair price and if South Africa do win, their current outright odds of 8/1 are likely to contract to something close to their price at the start of the week.

Expect plenty of runs at Edgbaston with world number one Hashim Amla Coral’s 11/4 favourite to be leading scorer for the Proteas, just ahead of captain A.B. de Villiers, who scored a run-a-ball 70 on Monday.

Steyn is 9/4 favourite to be South Africa’s leading wicket-taker with Morkel’s talented replacement, Chris Morris, rated a 7/2 chance. For Pakistan, spin wizard Saeed Ajmal predictably heads the bowling market at 9/4.

Written by Jon Freeman