Tom Sizeland highlights five talking points ahead of the Proteas’ must-win Tri-Nation series clash against West Indies on Friday.
West Indies were offered two bites at the cherry to book a spot in the final. They’ve squandered one with the six-wicket defeat to Australia on Tuesday, now they have another against the Proteas, which leaves a do-or-die scenario for both sides. A win (without a bonus point) for the Windies will leave both of them on 12 points, but it needn’t matter for the islanders, as they will join the Aussies in the final based on a better win record against the Proteas. You fancy the winner of this match to take that momentum through to Sunday’s final and go all the way, making this encounter a massive occasion. The hosts might feel like they have less to lose, though. The fact that they’re in this situation against the No 1 and No 3 teams in the world, especially after the disappointment of missing out on qualification for next year’s Champions Trophy, is already somewhat of an achievement.
The Windies relied on one partnership, a 192-run stand between Marlon Samuels and Denesh Ramdin, to get them to 282, and Australia showed how straightforward winning can be if everyone chips in. All four bowlers that bowled their allotted overs took wickets, and all six batsmen who were required made starts. The Proteas finally put in a complete performance last week in the 139-run win against West Indies … can they fire on all cylinders again? The bowling has been solid throughout, but the batsmen must find some consistency, especially at No 5 and 6, to win the match and reach the final.
Samuels hadn’t scored a fifty against Australia for an incredible 15 years before his 92 a couple of weeks ago. He followed that up with an impressive 125 in their next encounter, enjoying some of the best form of his career at the grand old age of 35. His record against SA, however, paints a different picture, with scores of 1 and 24 so far, and an average of 30 from 21 matches against them. If he doesn’t produce the goods though, it’s going to be difficult to see where the big runs are going to come from in the top five. One suspects he will need to put on another significant display to allow the likes of Kieron Pollard to do his thing towards the back-end of the innings. The fact that Samuels needs 77 more runs to pass Gordon Greenidge’s 5 134 and move to ninth on West Indies all-time ODI list shows his value and experience to the side.
After being left out of the whole series, Morkel was finally given a chance against Australia, before it was washed out. The Kensington Oval track promises pace and bounce, and out of the 12 wickets that fell on Tuesday, only one went to a spinner. If Mitchell Starc’s spell is anything to go by, then Morkel should be able to take full advantage of the conditions on offer. The new ball appeared to speed off the surface a bit more than usual, leaving Windies openers Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher clueless against Starc. Morkel will finally get a chance to flex his muscles and the opposition will be wary of the threat that Morkel and Kagiso Rabada will pose with the new nut. Having said that, spin is expected to come into play later on, so time will tell if leaving out a second spinner will prove a good choice or not.
The importance of this clash shouldn’t be underestimated. Should the Proteas fail to reach the final, it will be the first time in 10 years they’ve failed to do so in a triangular series, when they missed out to Australia and Sri Lanka. This obviously isn’t going to go down well. There’s no point in delving too much into the negatives before the match has even begun, but the situation is already tender after two comprehensive defeats, and a third isn’t going to go down well back home. Russell Domingo is already under pressure to hold on to his role, and the make-up of the side will surely be examined more closely come the ODI series against Australia in September.