South Africa vs West Indies | Wednesday 14 January | Kingsmead, Durban | 18:00
With the West Indies having wrapped up the T20 series with a game in hand, the travel to weather-plagued Durban will be purely for the sake of entertainment. The greatest executant of them all, Chris Gayle, is in fine form and the East Coast crowd will hope for cricket balls filling the skies instead of rain drops. In typical Wanderers fashion, the Bull Ring served up a limited overs run-fest, 467 of them scored in 39.2 overs. The Proteas will be disappointed that they were unable to push the series further than the upcoming dead rubber, twice being on the received end of an unstoppable Gayle Force.
South Africa 9/10
West Indies 9/10
The Proteas elected to field a second-string squad for the series, with rest required prior to a gruelling World Cup in Australia. Captain Faf du Plessis, who will be involved in the trip Down Under, along with Imran Tahir, are the only members of the squad to feature consistently in all three formats. du Plessis displayed his versatility in the game by racing to only the second century by a South African in a T20 international, his 119 from 56 balls now the highest individual total in the format by a Protea player. His partnership with an aggressive David Miller propelled South Africa to a mammoth 231/7 at the end of their twenty overs, and few would have envisaged it being chased down. Indeed, the Proteas had never lost a T20 defending more than 180. However, finding a way to remove Gayle early was paramount for victory and allowing the big man to tee off saw the West Indies break the back of the chase in no time. Kyle Abbott was especially poor on the day, missing his lengths and travelling for seventeen an over. One can only imagine what kind of difference the likes of Dale Steyn would’ve made in limiting the West Indian chase, or indeed what kind of innings AB de Villiers may have had on the batsman-friendly strip.
Chris Gayle is undoubtedly the most powerful batsman on the planet and on a pitch like the Wanderers, the margin for error is almost non-existent. Bludgeoning 77 from 31 balls in the first T20 at Newlands won the West Indies the match, and 90 from 41 balls in the second T20 won them the series. Gayle was opinionated in the post-match presentation, slamming the West Indian selectors in much the same way he takes apart an attack. The omissions of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard from the World Cup squad has Gayle up in arms and it is clear that all is not right within the West Indian camp. It looks as though Bravo is being punished for his involvement in the payment debacle in India. Have the West Indian board and selectors become so juvenile as to omit one of their best players simply because they are unafraid to stir the pot? While it is easy to use Kevin Pietersen as an example of weeding out the bad apples, not one of KP’s teammates defended him as vehemently. Gayle dedicated the series win to the ‘victims’ and with Marlon Samuels, led West Indies to the highest successful run chase in T20 internationals. While another implosion threatened to scupper the West Indies in the final overs, Darren Sammy laid the finishing touches onto an almost flawless pursuit.
Thunderstorms are the name of the game when playing under lights in Durban, during summer. Rain is predicted for the start of the match and we could well be in for a 10-15 over shootout following rain delays. With the threat of a shortened fixture imminent, the West Indies surely hold the upper hand.
VERDICT: West Indies 9/10
The bookies have both sides at 9/10 for this one, despite South Africa boasting a significantly weaker squad and being unable to defend 231 against a power-packed West Indies batting line-up. With the threat of rain, West Indies have more batsmen with the ability to clear the rope regularly, and for this reason I’m backing a West Indies series clean sweep.
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