South Africa vs West Indies | Wednesday 21 January | Buffalo Park, East London | 13:30
The Proteas demolished the West Indies by 148 runs to seal the second ODI in Johannesburg and put themselves on the brink of wrapping it up in East London. Records tumbled at the Wanderers, a ground which has become suspiciously susceptible to huge limited overs totals over the past few years. It was the scene of the 438 match against Australia and recently the highest T20 international total, another case of a record set in the first innings only to be broken in the second. This did not come to pass on Sunday, the Proteas notching up 439 and restricting the West Indies to a paltry (in the circumstances) 291. The West Indies must turn things around or risk losing the series with two matches left to play.
South Africa 2/7
West Indies 3/1
While a more perfect performance from the Proteas would be difficult to find, fans cannot expect such an anomaly against the bigger sides at the World Cup. It’s similar to the finding of a truncated mean, in that when finding a central average, one would remove the highest and lowest values so as not to skew the result. If one is to ignore the second ODI at the Wanderers then the same old problems surface. There are still concerns regarding the Proteas finishing an innings, both with the bat and ball. Once through the top six, there is little in the way of firepower at the back end, a’ la James Faulkner or Mitchell Johnson. Farhaan Behardien in particular has done little to justify his place in the side. He offers a couple of handy overs with the ball but batting in the lower order, his job is to the find the boundary with regularity and up the scoring rate. At international level, he’s done no such thing.
The Proteas also failed to find a wicket in the final eight overs of the second ODI, despite the West Indian chase already having given up the ghost. Steyn and Morkel were very economical and showed how to bowl on an unhelpful track, but if South Africa had rather stuttered to somewhere close to 300 as is the case far too often, could the Proteas have held their nerve? This remains to be seen. Although Rilee Rossouw’s well timed century will no doubt fill the player with confidence, his hit-and-miss form makes Quinton de Kock’s return a welcome one. David Miller will be buoyed by the runs made in the middle-order during the first ODI and time at the crease generally suits him. However, he should technically be playing a different role, that of finisher, and the calls for him to bat higher up the order are misguided. Perhaps he needs time to settle but that kind of time is a luxury. Miller must be batting at seven or eight, to steer the tail in the event of a collapse and to hit out in the last ten overs. And as for AB de Villiers, what more can be said? He’s pretty much superhuman and the key to the Proteas having any success at the World Cup.
The West Indies are desperately missing their two exiled players. Dwayne Bravo, voted a part of the ICC’s ODI side of 2014, is exactly the player that the West Indies need in situations like Johannesburg. His ability to slow the scoring rate with the ball in hand, as well as pick up regular wickets, was sorely missed in the carnage. With the bat, he shows leadership and his inside-out drives over the cover boundary would be handy on Australian grounds. Kieron Pollard, also an all-rounder and packing a vicious punch when timing the ball, adds balance and experience. Ludicrous bureaucracy has led to their exclusion. It is totally unnecessary and if the West Indian board were less like petulant children, or were able to learn from previous errors, the whole debacle would never have happened and the team would be at full strength. Nearly.
They have been missing Darren Bravo for personal reasons and this is most certainly not the first time he has been withdrawn under this excuse. Depression is very real in cricket and the West Indies would do well to assist him in his recovery, particularly considering his inclusion in the World Cup squad despite limited game time. But perhaps the most important omission is Sunil Narine. Following being cited for an illegal action and banned from BCCI events, he remains eligible for international cricket. Reports are that he has been working on his action himself. But with no time afforded him to fine-tune the action in a match situation or, indeed, if his action is not yet legal, it could have disastrous consequences for the West Indies in the World Cup. Chris Gayle is important at the top of the order and while he is the most powerful batsmen on the planet, it will do him no good until he learns a modicum of responsibility. A clueless swipe led to his demise in the first ODI and a lazy miscued pull put pay to his innings in the next. The bowlers missed their lengths and the fielding was sloppy. But, one positive in a heavily negative article, is that Sulieman Benn was once again the pick of bowlers in control, intelligence and intensity. Without him the West Indies could have conceded 460+.
Buffalo Park in East London plays host the third ODI and being one of the smaller grounds in the country, could also witness a run-fest. However, recent results dictate that 300 will still be a difficult total to reach and wickets in hand will be key here. The Proteas have not lost an ODI at Buffalo Park since 1999, a strange fixture which saw West Indians Shiv Chanderpaul and Carl Hooper record centuries, but no-one else reach double figures in the side. The Proteas failed to chase the total. The weather seems clear for the first innings, but rain should play a part in proceedings as night falls.
VERDICT: South Africa 2/7
The wicket will likely suit the Proteas’ bowling attack and I’m backing them to once again dismiss Gayle before the full effects of his power can be felt. After that, it is merely a task of chipping away at those who remain. Very short, but get on the Proteas and don’t look back.
Disagree with our tipster? Let us hear your thoughts. Please comment below.