There was praise for the sporting pitch from Smith and Younis
MOHALI: Pakistan urgently needs to curb its volatility. The coach and the captain of the team realise they have limited options as they prepare the team to take on a resurgent South Africa at the PCA stadium here. The clash on Friday would decide the second semifinalist from Group `B' after New Zealand made the grade on Wednesday night.
The combat is directly between the South African incisiveness with the ball and the ability of Pakistan to bat its way out of trouble. An ideal situation for one to expect a thriller since it is a do-or-die situation for both.
Under pressure to win this contest, Pakistan faces a stern test, a situation quite similar to the one at Jaipur. But Pakistan skipper Younis Khan spoke of the pressure in every match. "International cricket is about pressure and how you handle it. There is pressure when you play Australia and pressure when we play Kenya. We are used to the conditions and still confident."
Coach Bob Woolmer was more practical. "We didn't play well at Jaipur but that is past and forgotten. The stakes here are high and we know what exactly we have to do. So do South Africa. We are volatile one day and brilliant the other. We need to change it."
Smith looked at the positives from the win against Sri Lanka and hopes they would push the team to a greater level against Pakistan. "There is lot of passion in our cricket. There is excitement and hunger of playing for the country. International cricket is about pressure but we know how to adapt.
"The key lies in adapting to the conditions. We adapted well the other night," stressed the South African skipper.
A crucial factor
The dew factor is frustrating for both the teams the break between the innings has been reduced to 30 minutes from 45 to counter the dew problem but there was praise for the sporting pitch that Daljit Singh has produced. "There is juice and lot of carry," noted Smith on the eve of the contest.
Smith's reading of the situation found support from Younis, the Pakistan captain admitting that it would be a huge task against the South Africans. Smith admitted he was not taking Pakistan for granted and backed his team to consolidate the advantage gained from the win against Sri Lanka. "The win was a massive boost. It was a big team performance but we need to adapt here and get everything in place. I back our ability in these conditions," noted Smith.
South Africa has progressed on the strength of its compact attack where the emphasis is clearly on pace. Smith pointed out, "Our combination is pretty open. We carry more pace bowlers and that has been our strength. Our batters need time. Our top eight are among the best and need to apply ourselves in this crucial match. Maybe tomorrow would be the day for the batters to click."
Smith reflected on the win against Sri Lanka with pride, praising Makhaya Ntini and forgetting Shaun Pollock for the wonderful performance. "Ntini was superb. He is quick and his line was superb. We have to ensure we don't get carried away by the bounce here and get the plot right."
Afridi in poor form
Pakistan's woes come from some dismal batting by the top half. Shahid Afridi has struggled no fifty in 21 innings. "Leave him alone. He is a match winner and needs to be backed. It is not possible to keep performing all the time when we are playing so much cricket. I personally don't allow it to effect me. I have to think for others too but I am happy because I am still learning," said Younis, in defence of batsmen not getting runs.
South Africa looks up to veteran Jacques Kallis and the explosive Herschelle Gibbs to show the way with Smith and Boeta Dippenaar not too far behind. It is time for them to deliver.
The teams (from): South Africa: Graeme Smith (capt.), Boeta Dippenaar, Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, Justin Kemp, Abraham Devilliers, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock, Andrew Hall, Andrew Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Robin Peterseon, Loots Bosman and Charl Langeveldt.
Pakistan: Younis Khan (capt.), Shoaib Malik, Muhammad Hafeez, Mohammad Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Naved-ul-Hasan, Faisal Iqbal, Imran Farhat, Rao Iftikhar and Umar Gul.
Umpires: Billy Bowden and Mark Benson; Third umpire: Steve Bucknor; Fourth umpire: Rudi Koertzen; Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle.
Hours of play: 2.30 p.m. to 6 p.m.; 6.30 p.m till close.