Tom Sizeland highlights five talking points ahead of the Proteas’ crucial Tri-Nation series clash against West Indies on Wednesday.
IS THIS A MUST-WIN?
The Windies’ four-wicket victory over Australia on Monday left the group wide open, and only time will tell whether that has affected the Proteas negatively or not. One thing is clear, though: they have to win this match to keep a spot in the final in their own hands. A win will lift them to at least second and put each team on two wins, but a defeat will leave them needing to win their last two games to stand any chance of making the final on 26 June. Is this is a must-win match? Not necessarily, but it’s not going to look pretty on paper.
WHERE DOES MORRIS FIT IN?
With the news that Chris Morris is set to return from a hamstring niggle, it creates an interesting debate as to who he might come in for. The like-for-like replacement is Wayne Parnell, but the Proteas have a worryingly long tail at the moment, and Parnell’s flattering position at No 7 might look a bit more balanced with someone like Morris coming in at 8. I don’t see why there can’t be space for both of them. That only leaves one more place for a seam bowler, and on a pitch that offers a bit of zip off the surface, they might be tempted to introduce Morne Morkel and give Kagiso Rabada a rest.
DUMINY UNDER PRESSURE?
With 77 runs at an average 25.66, and one wicket at 51, JP Duminy is well out of form in both disciplines, and has been struggling for some time now. He hasn’t made a fifty in nine innings, and he’s only scored one in his last 15. With Aaron Phangiso and Imran Tahir turning the ball admirably, Duminy’s spin requirements have lessened, and it was an odd choice to bowl him for seven rather expensive overs against Australia. His 41 in the same match showed promise, but he gave away his wicket at a crucial stage. You could say the same for the rest of the top order, but if you’ve got as much experience as Duminy has, you need to take responsibility, like Marlon Samuels did in his match-winning performance on Monday. Duminy could be one match away from making way for Dean Elgar, who is more than capable of filling in for a few overs himself.
TIME FOR AB TO FIRE
Another player due a big knock is the skipper, who has made starts in all three games without pushing on. His side need a big innings to come from somewhere on a track much more suited to the batsmen than the pitch in Guyana, but the highest score so far has been Faf du Plessis’ 63. De Villiers went into the third game having gone 92 balls without scoring an ODI boundary. That’s just not good enough from a player who scored the most runs by a non-opener in the IPL and the second-most sixes. In a top six that is struggling, these starts need to be converted into big scores by the man they depend on more often than not.
EXPLOIT THE WEAKNESSES
Apart from Sunil Narine’s mystery balls and the occasional tidy spell from Jason Holder and Carlos Brathwaite, the Proteas don’t have too much to worry about when it comes to the Windies bowling lineup. Jerome Taylor and Sulieman Benn have been ineffectual so far with just two wickets between them in three matches for 201 runs. Australia had themselves to blame for most of their wickets that fell on Monday, with medium pacer Kieron Pollard even bagging a couple of wickets. If the Proteas can contain Narine and play with a bit of freedom and confidence, there’s no reason why they can’t post a big total on a ground that has a first-innings average total in excess of 280.