South Africa vs West Indies | Friday 26 December | St George’s Park | 10:30
West Indies 14/1
The first double hundred by a South African captain on home soil, partnered by vice-captain AB de Villiers in a 308-run stand of which the latter helped himself to 152, propelled South Africa to unassailable heights. Having been reduced to 57/3 following a fiery Kemar Roach spell, the stalwarts resurrected the innings with their record stand. To add insult to West Indian injury (Kemar Roach, ankle) , debutant Stiaan van Zyl racked up a maiden hundred for South Africa to declare on 552/5. It was then left to the four-prong seam attack to enforce the follow-on and wrap up the match. They did so in four sessions.
Vernon Philander wore down the West Indian top order in the first innings to collect four wickets for 29 runs in fifteen miserly overs. Dale Steyn went surprisingly wicketless, and then, in the second innings, unsurprisingly deadly. A fourth morning spell of 6/31 in seven overs blew the West Indians away and resigned them to an innings and 220-run loss. Now, the touring party must front up to Steyn at St George’s Park, the scene of an Australian collapse at the hands of reverse swing. The Proteas will likely also turn to Robin Petersen as the specialist spinner on a slower track. With Quinton de Kock out for the series and in doubt for the World Cup, AB de Villiers will take the gloves for the remainder of the Tests. Rilee Rossouw has been brought in to replace the ‘keeper, but with the batsman nursing a finger injury, a debut for Temba Bavuma is on the cards.
Being dismissed twice in four sessions will lose you any Test, and it has been a long while since the West Indies have found any success in the format. Starts for the top order in the first innings amounted to nothing and with inexperience rife due to injuries, the side was never really in the running. Their best bowler, Kemar Roach, is also now sidelined, prompting the call-up of left-armer Kenroy Peters. Their only impressive period of the Test, aside from Roach’s aforementioned spell, was the first opening stand between Brathwaite and Devon Smith. Smith was unlucky in the first innings and perhaps a tad in the second, but as soon as the Proteas attack honed in on the correct length to bowl, the West Indies were done for. They were simply outclassed by a better team. Spare a thought for Sulieman Benn, who toiled for 46 overs for his two wickets, the only player to show any ongoing enthusiasm for the contest. A couple of heft blows from the spinner provided a bit of entertainment and the West Indies folded at the hands of Dale Steyn.
St George’s Park, as witnessed during Australia’s tour, is a slower wicket to most found in the country. It is also a rather abrasive surface and management of the ball will be paramount in taking wickets. There are runs to be had on the first few days and the side winning the toss will need to cash in. Prior to 2007, the Proteas had a poor record at the ground and indeed the West Indies won on their last visit courtesy of Shiv Chanderpaul and the bowling of Dwayne Bravo. There is rain predicted during the middle of the Test which could complicate matter slightly.
BEST: Top West Indies Batsman, Shivnarine Chanderpaul 5/2
The Crab is favourite for runs at St George’s, having already scored a century at the ground. However, the price is not at all bad despite his struggles against the South African attack at Centurion. The pitch will better suit Chanderpaul’s game and he could provide one of his trademark gutsy resistances here.
VERDICT: South Africa 1/4
No need to think twice here. The Proteas are most certainly good for your money against a weak and out-of sorts West Indies. The draw is an outside, weather-dependent possibility but with at least two full days of play predicted and perhaps only a few sessions lost to showers, the Proteas should have enough time to break down the tourists.
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