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Cricket news - Can Pakistan stretch their prolific T20I run to 2019?

A T20I series win in South Africa will lift the team morale before they disperse for the PSL and come back together for WC preparations.

Pakistan's final one-day outing of the tour might not have gone according to plan, but none of that will matter when they play South Africa on Friday evening. There's something with Pakistan and the T20 format. They might be down and out in the longer formats, but come the shorter one and the very same unit, without much change in the personnel, seems to galvanize into action and turn into world-beaters.

Remember what happened last year in New Zealand? After being whitewashed in a five-match one-day series, Pakistan, after losing the first of the three T20Is, bounced back to win the series 1-2. It saw them become the top-ranked side of the format. Since then, they have consolidated their hold over the coveted spot.

2018 was a special year for them. Their numbers were staggering: 17 wins in 19 matches - including a triangular series win and whitewashes in three-match series over Australia and New Zealand. Pakistan currently have an ongoing nine-match winning streak.

After having found the desired self-belief over the course of the one-day series, the upcoming three matches presents an opportunity for Pakistan to stretch their dominance in the shorter-format. And, it is bound to do a little more than the extension of a prolific run.

A T20I series win in South Africa will lift the team morale before they disperse for the PSL. And, when they converge for the final World Cup preparations, they can take heart from this win.

Quite like the one-day series, Pakistan have retained their core group for T20Is whereas South Africa have brought in several fresh faces. Historically, South Africa have had an upper hand over Pakistan, but the form in which the tourists find themselves is bound to make this series an exciting affair.

WHEN: February 1 at 06:00 PM LOCAL / 9:30 PM IST / 04:00 PM GMT

WHERE: Newlands, Cape Town

WHAT TO EXPECT: A high-scoring encounter. South Africa have a terrible T20I record in Newlands, winning just three of the 17 games played here. The weather is set to be fair.

Team News

South Africa: The hosts have included three wicketkeepers and rewarded Lutho Simpala, 20-year-old left-arm pacer, with a national call for his excellent bowling in the Mzansi Super League. Simpala was the third-best bowler in the tournament with 16 wickets in 10 matches. He may get a nod ahead of Junior Dala. With Linda Zondi, convener of national selection committee, emphasizing on the necessity of providing an opportunity to Gihahn Cloete to keep stumps this series, the 26-year-old might play his second T20I.

Probable XI: Reeza Hendricks, Quinton de Kock (wk), Rassie van der Dussen, Faf du Plessis (c), David Miller, Gihahn Cloete, Chris Morris, Wiaan Mulder, Andile Phehlukwayo, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lutho Sipamla/Junior Dala

Pakistan: The tourists made only one change in the squad from the New Zealand series to pave way for Mohammad Amir. But, his lacklustre run and his demotion to a first-change bowler is unlikely to create any changes in the Pakistan bowling lineup. With Shoaib Malik at the helm, Mohammad Rizwan, whose last game was Sarfraz Ahmed's first as captain, will return to format after 28 months.

Probable XI: Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik (c), Asif Ali, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Faheem Ashraf, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Usman Khan, Shaheen Afridi

Did you know?

- South Africa are one of the two sides against which Pakistan have a negative win/loss ratio; the other team is India. They have lost six and won five against South Africa.

- Pakistan have played three T20Is at this venue and were victorious in all three of them. Two of them were during Pakistan's 2007 WT20 campaign in which they were led by Shoaib Malik. The third was during a two-match series in November 2013, which Pakistan won under the stewardship of Mohammad Hafeez and drew the two-match series 1-1.

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