Temba Bavuma starts life as South Africa's new captain in white-ball cricket with an ODI series against Pakistan on home soil.
Bavuma has been handed the job through to the 2023 Cricket World Cup, replacing Quinton de Kock after the wicketkeeper-batsman had been leading the Proteas in all three formats on a temporary basis.
Twenty20 cricket may well be of greater importance for international teams right now in terms of planning - there is a World Cup in the shortest format to come later this year on Indian soil, plus another in Australia in 2022 - but the new reign begins with three 50-over fixtures.
Centurion hosts two of the one-dayers, including Friday's opener, with a fixture at the Wanderers in Johannesburg sandwiched in between.
South Africa lost in both the Test and T20 formats on their tour to Pakistan earlier this year, albeit they had an inexperienced squad on duty for the latter. Heinrich Klaasen was placed in charge as many of his compatriots departed to prepare to face Australia at home, only for those games to be cancelled.
The unexpected gap in the schedule has allowed South Africa to make changes with a focus on the long-term future – Dean Elgar is now the Test skipper – and there are some fresh faces in the one-day squad, with all-rounder Wihan Lubbe and fast bowler Lizaad Williams selected.
Aiden Markram and Wiaan Mulder have been recalled, while those players who will be involved in this year's Indian Premier League will be released early from international duty. With so many departing, opportunities will come for some of the less experienced individuals in the squad.
Special praise from his peers for the new South Africa captain Temba Bavuma pic.twitter.com/TU2rZ0gDG0— ICC (@ICC) April 1, 2021
Pakistan sit just behind their hosts in sixth place in the International Cricket Council's team rankings, but go into the series having lost just one of their last nine ODI games, the solitary defeat coming in a Super Over against Zimbabwe in November 2020.
However, South Africa have won eight of their last 10 outings at Supersport Park - venue for the first and third games - and have a 4-2 record there when Pakistan are the visitors.
Both nations will be eager to pick up points in the World Cup Super League, particularly the Proteas as they prepare for ODI duty for the first time in over a year.
The uncapped Saud Shakeel was initially named in Pakistan's squad but has been ruled out with a leg injury, though fellow rookie Danish Aziz is expected to get a chance in the middle order after impressing in domestic action.
Bavuma takes centre stage
Bavuma will be the 16th captain for South Africa in one-day cricket; he has scored 335 runs and averages 55.8 in the format. However, this will be his first ODI appearance against Pakistan and, with players such as De Kock, David Miller, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje among those bound for the IPL soon, the new skipper will hope to lead from the front.
Babar Lord's it over Proteas
Pakistan captain Babar Azam averages 65.7 in ODI action since the start of 2019, boasting a strike rate of 93.8 while scoring four centuries during that period. The right-handed batsman made 69 as his side won when the nations met during the 2019 Cricket World Cup at Lord's. However, neither made it beyond the round-robin stage of that tournament.
Key series facts
- South Africa and Pakistan have alternated between victory and loss in their last four ODI matches against each other; the last time they met was during the 2019 World Cup, when the Proteas lost by 49 runs.
- South Africa have won their last three ODI matches (all against Australia); the last time the Proteas won more consecutive matches in the format was between January and March 2019 (six matches).
- Pakistan have a catch success rate of 72 per cent in ODIs since the start of 2019, the lowest share of any Test-playing nation in that time; they have dropped 40 of the 144 chances presented to them.
- South Africa have lost only one of the nine men's multi-game bilateral ODI series played against Pakistan (W8). However, the solitary defeat was at home when Pakistan toured in 2013.
- Fakhar Zaman (currently 47 innings) needs 40 to reach 2,000 runs in ODIs (1,960 runs); if he gets there in this game, he will be the third fastest to reach the milestone for Pakistan (Zaheer Abbas and Babar Azam).