Confident West Indies take on shaky South Africa

A first-up win by West Indies over South Africa was something of a surprise, but their victory over Australia in

The powerful South Africa batting will be tested once again with huge expectations on the shoulders  of AB De Villiers and Hashim Amla
The powerful South Africa batting will be tested once again with huge expectations on the shoulders of AB De Villiers and Hashim Amla

St Kitts has shown that Jason Holder’s side are genuine contenders for the triangular series title, particularly as injury worries have depleted both opponents. Having squandered a winning position against Australia, South Africa now find themselves in the unedifying position of needing to catch up with West Indies, on a small ground that clearly suits the block-and-bash style of Johnson Charles, Marlon Samuels, Kieron Pollard and others.

In defeating Australia, West Indies ran up a mighty differential in fours and sixes – the hosts’ 32 boundaries towered over the 21 managed by the visitors. What’s more, Charles and Andre Fletcher reached the rope seven times inside six overs, before Usman Khawaja and Aaron Finch had done so even once. So it is clear that to restrict West Indies, South Africa’s pacemen and spinners need to find the right lines and lengths to jam their big hitters and prevent further barrages.

A lack of batting depth and balance has been South Africa’s major worry for quite some time in limited overs matches. While the likes of Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers are undoubtedly world-class players, there is too little behind them to allow for freedom of expression with the bat. Amla has been outspoken in stating that the top four need to do the heavy lifting, and it will require partnerships of considerable heft to achieve that against Sunil Narine in particular, who confused South Africa completely in scooping six wickets during their earlier meeting.

Even during West Indies’ warm-up matches for this tournament, Darren Bravo was making starts. Scores of 24, 21, 30, 19 and 39 suggest an engine that is revving up nicely without quite hitting the desired gear. Each of the three most recent innings have included the odd glorious stroke, followed by a dismissal at a time when Bravo should have been about to dominate. No one can question Bravo’s talent or commitment to his side but, after Marlon Samuels’ spinal innings against Australia on Monday night, the bar has been set for the kind of performance West Indies need from their left-handed No. 3.

Much like Bravo, Quinton de Kock has made a trio of starts in his matches so far, without going on to anything substantial. Given the slowish conditions faced in the Caribbean, it is quite an advantage to be able to get started against the new ball, and a privilege de Kock has enjoyed without making the most of it. Additionally, given that South Africa’s batting lacks the depth of West Indies and Australia, there is more responsibility than usual on the top four to produce.

The combination that restricted and then defeated Australia on Monday should be set to turn out again, though Sulieman Benn did appear to pick up a niggle while fielding.

Chris Morris is fit again and may press Kyle Abbott for his place. Morne Morkel is yet to play a game in the tournament.

The Warner Park surface is swifter than that of the Providence Stadium, but it showed signs of tiring during the previous match. It also took some spin in the evening. It’s quite interesting to note that the West Indies last won consecutive ODIs when they defeated Pakistan and Zimbabwe at the World Cup in February last year.

Also, West Indies haven’t won consecutive games against South Africa since an ODI series in the Caribbean in 1992.