South Africa’s T20I outfit, labelled ‘second-string’ ahead of the series, fell short by three runs of upsetting the hosts in the series-opener on Friday. In what turned out to be a pulsating encounter, the visitors will rue the narrow loss which has further extended their losing streak in T20Is. This is the first time that the Proteas have tasted defeat in five consecutive T20I and they will be desperate to make amends on Saturday. Pakistan, because of their relative stability in their line-up, are still deemed to be favourites.

The Babar Azam-led side Pakistan would know they were far from being their best version on Friday. There is a major concern surrounding their batting line-up which looked flustered for a large part of the innings. Keeping Mohammad Rizwan’s blistering century aside, not a single batsman managed to score more than 21 runs. The misfiring Khushdil Shah and Iftikhar Ahmed in a crumbling middle-order are a worry for Pakistan and the onus is on the duo to justify their selections.

Pakistan’s fast-bowling battery was also not up to the mark in the first encounter with the trio of Shaheen Afridi, Haris Rauf, and Faheem Ashraf conceding 118 runs from their combined 11 overs. It was the spinners who pulled things back for the hosts during the middle overs and manage to spin a web around an inexperienced South African batting. Pakistan may consider slotting in either Mohammad Hasnain or Hasan Ali for the 2nd T20I given the possibility that Shaheen Afridi may be rested due to excessive workload.

Pakistan’s Expected XI: 1 Babar Azam (capt) 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk) 3 Haider Ali 4 Khushdil Shah/Asif Ali 5 Hussain Talat 6 Faheem Ashraf 7 Iftikhar Ahmed 8. Mohammad Nawaz 9 Hasan Ali/Shaheen Afridi 10 Haris Rauf 11 Usman Qadir

"The boys put in a great effort. We gave some runs in the Powerplay but the spinners brought us back in the game. We feel confident. We are improving on our fielding as well,” said Babar Azam after the first T20I.

South Africa would have distraught at losing the first T20I after being in a dominant position at several short phases of the match. They couldn’t really capitalize when they had the hosts bogged down and allowed the opposition to get back to a competitive position. While their top-order looks settled with Janneman Malan and Reeza Hendricks both getting crucial runs, the middle-order has to up the ante in the 2nd T20I if South Africa are to secure the record of never losing a T20I series in Asia. Senior statesmen like David Miller and Heinrich Klaasen would need to put their hands up and shoulder much of the responsibility.

Tabraiz Shamsi’s return provided South Africa the solidity they were missing during the middle overs. He looked immensely threatening on a Lahore deck that was conducive to spin and is expected to cause troubles to Pakistan on Saturday, once again. Andile Phehlukwayo also bowled well for his figures of 4-0-33-2 but South Africa would ideally want more from the likes of Junior Dala and Jacques Snyman, who didn’t have a memorable game with either the bat or the ball. The visitors have Jon-Jon Smuts waiting in the ranks but they may choose to field the same side, for now.

South Africa’s Expected XI: 1 Janneman Malan 2 Reeza Hendricks 3 Jon-Jon Smuts/Jacques Snyman 4 David Miller 5 Heinrich Klaasen (capt &wk)) 6 Andile Phehlukwayo 7 Dwaine Pretorius 8 Bjorn Fortuin 9 Lutho Sipamla 10 Tabraiz Shamsi 11 Glenton Stuurman

"I'm a little bit disappointed about the result. I think the lack of batting intensity for four overs there in the middle cost us a little bit. Hopefully, we can get things right in the second game. Hopefully, we can take good memories back home,” stated Heinrich Klaasen after the loss.