London: Last time Pakistan were in England in 2010, a major spot-fixing scandal marred their tour leading to the ban of then-captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir as well as jail terms for the trio. Three years on, Pakistan have rebuilt and will start off their ICC Champions Trophy campaign playing a warm-up game against South Africa at the Kennington Oval, London on Monday after their first warm-up game against Sri Lanka was washed out.
The Pakistan squad flew across early and played two one-day games each against Scotland and Ireland before the eight-nation tournament to get accustomed to the conditions, whereas South Africa too played a one-off ODI against Netherlands at Amstelveen. Pakistan struggled against the Irish, winning the second ODI by two wickets after a tie in the first, while South Africa pummeled Netherlands by 84 runs.
Both the captains - Misbah-ul-Haq and AB de Villiers - have a lot to prove in the final edition of the Champions Trophy. Pakistan would be hoping to rebuild their lost reputation and calm the storm of Zaka Ashraf's suspension back home. Against Ireland and Scotland, Pakistan visibly struggled to get in tune with the conditions and the batsmen were troubled by the extravagant movement of the ball in air. But Misbah feels the matches have helped them assess the conditions in England.
"In Ireland especially, the ball was really moving in the air. So everybody has suggested that, and they're ready to just face those sort of conditions. I think in England especially it will be better than Ireland, so I think mentally everybody is ready and now getting ready for this tournament," stated Misbah in a self-assuring manner in a press conference. The conditions will also boost the confidence of a very impressive fast bowling attack of Junaid Khan, Wahab Raiz, Mohammad Irfan and Asad Ali.
South Africa, on the other hand, are the No. 1 Test team and would like to win an ICC tournament since winning the inaugural Champions Trophy edition way back in 1998. JP Duminy and Faf du Plessis made solid comebacks to the international fold after long injury lay-offs against Netherlands and this will definitely boost the chances of the Proteas going a long way in the competition.
De Villiers too is hopeful that his team would do good. "We are a very talented cricketing nation and we've got to win some big games and we would love to win the trophy. I think we are preparing in the right way." And having names like Dale Styen, Morne Morkel and Lonwabo Tsotsobe in the line-up does not really give South Africa a reason to not do well in favourable conditions.
Pakistan: Imran Farhat, Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Misbah-ul-Haq (capt), Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal (wk), Junaid Khan, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Irfan, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Asad Ali, Ehsan Adil, Umar Amin.
Hashim Amla, Alviro Petersen, Colin Ingram, JP Duminy, AB de Villiers (capt/wk), Faf du Plessis, Farhaan Behardien, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Rory Kleinveldt, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Aaron Phangiso.