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Proteas set for Pakistan challenge

Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi hopes his beleaguered side is focused enough to counter a spirited South African team in the back-to-back Twenty20 matches starting in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday.

Pakistan’s recent tour to England was rocked by spot-fixing allegations, which prompted a Scotland Yard investigation and the suspension of three of their players by the International Cricket Council.

Test captain Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were charged for various code of conduct violations during the Lord’s Test against England in August, a controversy which Afridi said is a thing of the past.

“My players are professional and have put all the controversy behind them,” Afridi said at the launching ceremony of the series in which Pakistan will also play five one-day internationals and two Tests.

The series is Pakistan’s home series shifted to United Arab Emirates over security fears.

Afridi said the team has ample talent to counter the South Africans.

“We know we are without two of our best bowlers in Amir and Asif,” said Afridi of the two suspended bowlers. “But we still have ample talent to counter South Africa who are a very good side in the shorter form of the game.”

‘A great challenge’
South Africa 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.

All-rounder Jacques Kallis and fast bowlers Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn 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, to be played 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.

The two sides play the first two one-dayers in Abu Dhabi before the last three limited over matches in Dubai.

Dubai will also stage the first Test, while the second will be played in Abu Dhabi.

Squads:
Pakistan: Shahid Afridi (captain), Imran Farhat, Mohammad Hafeez, Shahzaib Hasan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Younis Khan, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq, Fawad Alam, Abdul Razzaq, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Wahab Riaz, Abdur Rehman, Shoaib Akhtar, Tanvir Ahmed, Zulqarnain Haider

South Africa: Johan Botha (captain), Loots Bosman, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Colin Ingram, Jacques Kallis, David Miller, Graeme Smith, Albie Morkel, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Rusty Theron, Lonwabo Tsotsobe. — AFP

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Shahid Hashmi
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