South Africa look locked and loaded for the semi-finals. Pakistan seem set on an early trip home. Another win for Temba Bavuma’s team at the SCG on Thursday would all but confirm both of those looming realities. The South Africans were on the verge of beating Zimbabwe in Hobart on October 24 when the game was washed out.
They responded by winning against Bangladesh in Sydney last Thursday and against India in Perth on Sunday, and finding different ways to do so into the bargain.
Babar Azam’s side have undertaken the reverse journey. Having squandered a bulletproof position to lose, to India, the greatest T20I yet played at the MCG on October 23, Pakistan then crashed to Zimbabwe by a single run in Perth four days later.
No doubt still shellshocked by what happened at the MCG, the Pakistanis were ripe for the picking by the ambitious, feisty Zimbos.
In their most recent match, in Perth on Sunday, Pakistan dealt emphatically with the Netherlands; limiting them to 91/9 and polishing off the target with 6.1 overs to spare.
But the damage of those two early defeats, particularly the way they went down to India, clearly run deep.
The South Africans are quietly building up a serious head of steam. They had to work harder to beat India in challenging conditions,