The Proteas suffered their first ODI defeat to the West Indies in nine long years as the tourists rallied to pull off a last gasp heist at St George’s Park. Although the Proteas were missing five frontline players due to pre-World Cup rotation, the nature of the loss is but an extension of the problems that seem to plague South Africa at major tournaments. The bowling was loose and lacked the killer instinct necessary to finish a side already reeling. Having said that, the West Indies finally showed intent to not go down without a fight. The boost in morale will be welcome to the tourists, who have had very little to celebrate in recent times. The Proteas must expect tougher contests at the World Cup and hopefully the West Indies will provide another at Centurion.
To Win Match
South Africa 1/3
West Indies 23/10
Excluding this match, the Proteas have only two warm-up fixtures before they open their World Cup account against Zimbabwe. According to captain AB de Villiers (who will be the first player in South African history to have a suite at a ground named after him while still a part of national set-up), the loss in the fourth ODI is neither a wake up call to the squad nor due to excessive complacency. This is probably true considering the players rested, but it does open up criticism of the players on the fringe. In the bowling department, extras were a huge concern and ended up being the difference between the two sides. In a World Cup situation where such indiscretions will decide close matches, ill discipline must be stamped out. It is quite literally the little things that can win a side the trophy. In a turn of good fortune, Quinton de Kock is well ahead of schedule in his recovery from a ligament tear and may make a return to partner Hashim Amla at the top of the innings in Pretoria. David Miller’s maiden ODI century is a huge boost to an already formidable middle-order and his flurry towards the back end of the innings saw the Proteas to a respectable score. However, the lack of any notable contribution from Farhaan Behardien is a massive area of concern and could see the Proteas stagnant if the top six is lost relatively cheaply. AB de Villiers, as well as Dale Steyn, will definitely play no part in this match as they are rested for the World Cup.
AB de Villiers seems to think that much of the criticism aimed at the West Indies side is unfounded. As far as South Africa’s captain is concerned, the West Indies have played in the same way for the better part of a decade and, to him, it is just their way of going about things. Apart from the last ODI, de Villiers would have been referring to brainless batting, lacklustre fielding and a distinct lack of cut and thrust with the ball. These are qualities that should not be accepted in any international team. The third ODI was the greatest exponent of the ‘don’t care’ kind of dismissals that infuriates West Indian fans and pundits. It all seemed to be following a familiar format at St George’s Park until Marlon Samuels did the unthinkable. He batted sensibly. He batted responsibly. He batted with patience. He formed a partnership with Darren Sammy to ensure that Andre Russell arrived at the crease needing 97 from 83 balls. While this was still a tall order without wickets in hand, Russell’s 64 from 40 balls took the West Indies over the line and confirmed that they can win cricket matches if they simply look to play proper cricket. The bowling was outstanding from the start and saw the tourists into the South African middle-order early, enabling them to build pressure by slowing the run-rate. This is key for a side like the West Indies. Perhaps the most pleased of the bunch will be Jason Holder, who picked up his first win as West Indian captain. It will most certainly be a high water mark in a captaincy career doomed to frustrate.
Pace and bounce will likely be the order of the day at Centurion, which has never really offered much for the spinners. Sides have struggled to go past 200 on the track in the last five ODI fixtures played there, except in the most recent abandoned match between South Africa and India, where the Proteas amassed 301 only to be thwarted by the rain. Quinton de Kock and AB de Villiers both got hundreds, so it really is a shot in the dark to try and predict the state of the wicket on Wednesday. The bad news is that there are thunderstorms predicted prior to play, around the innings break and through into the night. Let’s hope it holds out.
VERDICT: South Africa 1/3
Even a Proteas side missing a few key players should be able to roll the West Indies, mainly as a result of their own self-destruction. Confidence is all well and good following their win, but it is doubtful that they will be able to muster the complete package once again. Back the Proteas to finish the series strong.