There will be a few South African fans nervous of the upcoming prospect of the West Indies. The Proteas dominated the Caribbean outfit recently on their own shores in the one-day format, however the West Indies seem to have clicked into gear in the matter of a week. Both sides will be aware of 1996, Brian Lara finding form to score a glorious 111 and dump an unbeaten South Africa out of the tournament. The return to form of Chris Gayle may just be a perverted historical repetition wrought by the cricketing gods. It certainly won’t be a Proteas outfit resplendent in confidence that turns up in Sydney following their humbling at the hands of the defending champions last weekend.
To Win Match
South Africa 1/3
West Indies 24/10
While it is true that none of the bigger sides in the competition wish to peak too early, being thoroughly outplayed by one of the rivals for the trophy wouldn’t have been high on the list either. India dominated their match against the Proteas from start to finish and it will be a reminder to AB de Villiers and Co. that the tournament does not begin at the quarter-finals. Topping the group and getting the best draw for the knockout stage is equally as important. The Proteas conceded 307 against India and it probably should’ve been a lot more if not for some tight bowling at the death. Their fielding was sloppy and Hashim Amla’s dropped catch to dismiss Shikhar Dhawan costly. South Africa never looked like chasing the total down, losing wickets with regularity as well as the battle against the arm of the Indian outfielders. The run-outs of AB de Villiers and David Miller proved the turning points in the match. But there is no need for the Proteas to rue what is already lost. They have the perfect opportunity to right their wrongs against the West Indies albeit without the services of Vernon Philander, sidelined for a week to ten days with a hamstring strain. Considering how expensive Wayne Parnell was against India, the Proteas may opt for Kyle Abbott as the replacement seamer.
Is nineteen months and as many innings without a century too long a rope for an international opening batsman? In the case of Chris Gayle, the West Indies feel it is worth the risk. And their sentiments were justified against Zimbabwe on Tuesday as Gayle set a World Cup record by scoring 215 from 147 balls. His partnership with Marlon Samuels, who played a sumptuous innings to score 133, was a record in one-day internationals as well. Losing Dwayne Smith second ball of the match, Gayle and Samuels went on to rack up 372 before the former was dismissed off the last ball of the innings. They could not have found their best form at a better time. Their performance against Pakistan in a 150-run win in Christchurch seems to be only the beginning for the Islanders. They were outclassed on their visit to South Africa but have an opportunity to spring an upset should Gayle and Samuels string together another partnership. Without the two, they may find things difficult against a Proteas side still smarting from an embarrassing loss.
This will be the first match of the World Cup held at the infamous SCG and in recent times it has played quite well for batsmen willing to knuckle down. Eoin Morgan, David Warner and Quinton de Kock have scored recent centuries here even if 300+ totals have been tough to come by, showing how aggressive batsmen can flourish with the extra pace on offer. An even contest between ball and ball is expected and little rain is on the cards.
VERDICT: South Africa 1/3
Despite the massive threat that Chris Gayle poses I believe that South Africa should get over the line. They will be eager to prove themselves worthy of the tag of being among the pre-tournament favourites and need only execute the same plans against the West Indies that they did less than a month ago. Look towards the likes of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers to stand up as the senior members of the side.