Tom Sizeland highlights five talking points ahead of the Tri-Nation series clash between South Africa and Australia in Basseterre.
If recent history is anything to go by, then this should be another opportunity for the spinners to control proceedings. Tabraiz Shamsi in particular has fond memories of this ground. After all, it was his time spent at St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in the 2015 Caribbean Premier League that saw his stock rise immensely, with spells of 4-23 and 4-10 to boast about. It’s a ground that South African spinners endear themselves to, as seasoned campaigners Robin Peterson and Johan Botha opened the bowling here in the same tournament last year, with relative success.
THE SPIN TRIO
While this is expected to be favourable for the spinners again, there’s also predicted to be a bit of zip on the surface, which might see one of the spinners drop out for the likes of Morne Morkel. Aaron Phangiso, Imran Tahir and Shamsi worked to great effect in the victory over Australia on Tuesday, and the battle for that second spinner spot is likely to come down to Shamsi and Phangiso. Do they go for the control of Phangiso, or the unpredictability of Shamsi? Phangiso has done little wrong so far, so despite Shamsi’s success on this ground, he might be the unfortunate player.
With all due respect to Rilee Rossouw, who performed well in the first match before injuring his shoulder in the second, this is probably a convenient scenario for coach Russell Domingo, as Faf du Plessis can fit straight into that slot at No 3 in his place. Farhaan Behardien was initially under a lot of pressure to keep his spot, but his knock on Tuesday was a match-winning one, and the selectors obviously see a lot of value in his place there at No 6. So how is Rossouw’s replacement, Dean Elgar, going to work his way into this team? Well, the man now under pressure is JP Duminy, who hasn’t scored a fifty in eight innings, or since July 2015 against Bangladesh, and has been used sparingly for his off-spin. He needs to take his chance at No 5, where the Proteas desperately need to see runs scored.
That brings me to the next point, which is the fact that the top order hasn’t come to the party so far in the series. One positive is that the victory on Tuesday shows that they don’t need to rely on players like AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla. And thank goodness they don’t, because De Villiers hasn’t scored an ODI boundary in 92 deliveries. Herschelle Gibbs will remind them that this is where he scored six sixes in an over at the 2007 World Cup, and that kind of firepower is going to be needed against a struggling Australian unit. They are merely a sleeping giant, though. David Warner, Steve Smith and co are bound to unleash to devastating effect at some point in this tournament, and at a ground that has a first innings average of 282, compared to Guyana’s 211, this would be a suitable place to find their form.
I mentioned Mitchell Starc in my previous preview, which in hindsight was a bit awkward as they chose to rest him. They’re not going to do that again, because there’s no one quite like him in the world at the moment. Yes, the Proteas have Kagiso Rabada, but Starc hasn’t lost his pace since his injury, and he’s getting it to swing late, too. He has a knack for taking early wickets, and on a zippy surface, it’s going to be very difficult to contain him. If Amla and Quinton de Kock can keep him quiet, then it will put the Proteas in good stead to beat them twice in the space of a week.
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