- South Africa v West Indies, World T20 2016, Group 1, Nagpur on Friday March 25th, 2016
It has been talked up as the fixture that will decide Group 1, making the match-up between South Africa and West Indies perhaps the most intriguing of the group so far.
West Indies hold the aces after two wins from their opening two matches. A third will see them take control of the group and set themselves up to top it, with only Afghanistan left to play. It will also guarantee them a semi-final berth.
South Africa remain far away from such safety. Defeat to England means that even after beating Afghanistan, they still have to deal with the two most recent champions if they are to ensure advancement. On paper, South Africa should not be too anxious of the West Indian challenge, but we all know the saying about where sport is actually played.
In sharp focus will be the contrasting approaches of these two sides. Well-planned South Africa take on carefree West Indies, perhaps the last people they want to see when under pressure – it means South Africa have to think of what they can expect and what they can’t from a West Indies side that thrives on the spontaneous. Already, one of South Africa’s strategies – to use JP Duminy to bowl more – has been spoiled because Duminy is injured. West Indies don’t even have that worry after Chris Gayle’s injury scare passed.
For both sides, this may be their toughest test before the knockouts. As such, whoever wins this may become favourite for the title.
South Africa: WLLLW (last five completed games, most recent first)
West Indies: WWWLL
In the spotlight
With spin set to take centre-stage Imran Tahir and Samuel Badree could be game-changers, albeit in different ways. Badree has opened the bowling against England and Sri Lanka, against whom he was both container and destroyer-in-chief, while Tahir tends to be held back for when the fielding restrictions are lifted. Both times, he has been successful in pulling back opposition from fast starts but they may not get off to those if he is used earlier on.
Should South Africa be pondering any experimentation in the PowerPlay, then Nagpur will be the venue and West Indies the team to do it against. Unlike Mumbai, where South Africa conceded 89 and then 64 against England and Afghanistan respectively, things will slow down at VCA and West Indies already seem to like it that way. They’ve scored 55 and 39 in their previous two PowerPlays but, importantly, have only lost one wicket in each to ensure they stick to a more traditional approach of keeping firepower for the end.
JP Duminy’s injury-enforced absence means the balance of South Africa’s side will be affected. They will have to bring in a batsman to replace Duminy in the middle-order with Rilee Rossouw and Farhaan Behardien competing for the spot, but they will also need to make room for an extra spinner. Aaron Phangiso should make his first international appearance in five months, at the expense of either Chris Morris or David Wiese. Kagiso Rabada will have to lead the attack if Dale Steyn continues to sit out.
South Africa: 1 Quinton de Kock (wk), 2 Hashim Amla, 3 Faf du Plessis (capt), 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Rilee Rossouw/Farhaan Behardien 6 David Miller, 7 David Wiese/Chris Morris, 8 Kyle Abbott 9 Kagiso Rabada, 10 Aaron Phangiso 11 Imran Tahir
Chris Gayle has been declared fit to face South Africa after tweaking his hamstring in the Sri Lanka match, which should see West Indies go in with the same XI as they used for that game.
West Indies: 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Johnson Charles, 3 Andre Fletcher, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Dinesh Ramdin (wk), 6 Andre Russell, 7 Dwayne Bravo, 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Carlos Brathwaite, 10 Samuel Badree, 11 Sulieman Benn
Pitch and conditions
The pitch is under severe scrutiny after the qualifying round was played on a sluggish surface. The ball struggled to reach the bat and there was significant turn, which was also evident during the India-New Zealand clash. On Wednesday, two days before this match, the ICC’s pitch consultant Andy Atkinson oversaw preparations, with game-strip moving to an adjacent surface to the one the first round and the opening match of the Super 10s were played on. The new surface has been watered recently and has more grass, so is expected to hold together better, which could mean the spinners may not play as much of a starring role they were being primed for. That does not mean it will be easy-going and South Africa’s coach Russell Domingo’s assertion that the batsmen will have to “earn the money” will still hold, especially in hot, humid conditions.
Stats and Trivia
- South Africa have the historical advantage over West Indies. They have won six of the nine T20Is played between them. But West Indies have enjoyed more recent success. They claimed the series against South Africa in January 2015
- The first of Chris Gayle’s two T20I hundreds was scored against South Africa, in September 2007. The second came at this tournament, against England
- Hashim Amla is 49 runs away from becoming the fourth South African to 1,000 T20I runs
“I’ve said it many times, once we do what we do well, we are a force to reckon with. We are very destructive. We’ve doing just the basic things well.”
West Indies’ Darren Sammy
“[When] you peak at the right time, that’s when you win tournaments. When it happens the other way around, you generally fall out in those [big] games. As a team, we’ve been possibly going at 60-70% for a while and I’m hoping that we’ll step up a gear when it comes to crunch time.”
South Africa’s Faf du Plessis
(Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent © ESPN Sports Media Ltd.)