Babar Azam on the verge of No1 ODI ranking as Pakistan eye series win in South Africa

Proteas to field depleted side as star players leave for Indian Premier League

Captain Babar Azam will be targeting a limited overs series win and the No1 ranking in ODIs when Pakistan face South Africa in the deciding match in Centurion on Wednesday.

Before the series started, Azam was on 837 ranking points – 20 behind India captain Virat Kohli in the list for top ODI batsmen. The Pakistan captain scored a century in the series opener, which his team won off the last ball, and 31 in the second which his team lost despite a scintillating 193 from opener Fakhar Zaman.

Azam is almost guaranteed to overtake Kohli as the No1 ODI batsman, and is likely to remain in that position for a long period as India are not scheduled to play a 50-over game in the coming months.

What should also encourage Azam and Pakistan is the absence of top South African players for the decider. The Proteas will be without five leading players – Quinton de Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Lungi Ngidi, David Miller and Anrich Nortje – for the third match because of Indian Premier League commitments.

Had he been available, De Kock would have been the centre of attention. The wicketkeeper set tongues wagging and attracted scrutiny from match officials in the second ODI over the run out of Zaman.

In the last over of the match, with Pakistan needing 31 to win, de Kock seemingly gestured for fielder Aiden Markram to throw to the bowler's end, where Haris Rauf was heading.

Zaman, batting on 192, looked behind him, assuming the throw to go to the other end but was surprised when Markram's throw hit the stumps at his end.

Match officials are believed to have come to the conclusion that De Kock did not breach the law on fielders deceiving batsmen.

South Africa are not the only team missing a big name. All-rounder Shadab Khan has been ruled out from further participation on the tour of South Africa and will also miss out on the tour of Zimbabwe due to a toe injury.

Shadab injured his left toe while batting in the second match and has been sidelined for up to four weeks.

The leg-spinner didn’t take a wicket in the two ODIs against South Africa and scored only 33 and 13 runs in two games.