March 5, 2001

Cavalier South Africa given tough work-out by Busta Cup XI

In their first and only outing before the First Test the South Africans actually had every player involved in the batting game against the West Indies Busta Cup XI, though it was probably not the original plan.

Somehow, this day reminded me of the cavaliering Pakistan team that visited the Caribbean when I first played Test cricket, in 1977. The South Africans looked just as relaxed as Pakistan had looked in 1977, and we just managed to beat them 2-1.

I am almost sure that many of the young West Indians will probably ask the same question that I asked after Joel Garner and I got 16 of the 20 wickets in the President's XI game against Pakistan in 1977:

"Is this the way these guys play?"

Having seen the South Africans play many times, I would say; "Yes", since they are very entertaining, and take chances too. But I would also suggest that no-one should take that to mean that they are not either ready or focussed.

When their captain Shaun Pollock was out, for a paltry six, he showed his displeasure by tapping his pads slightly, since he could not have been too pleased with the first day's performances, despite closing on nearly 300 runs.

All of the South African batsmen, with the exception of Neil McKenzie, had something of a start, with perhaps Jacques Kallis being the most impressive, if cautious, for his 45, even though Mark Boucher looked aggressive with his 56.

The young West Indians held their own well. Quickie Merve Dillon was very impressive in his come-back effort after that injury in Australia. While he only took 1-31, Dillon's 19 overs were quick, and more or less on the right spot, as were those of his fast bowling partners, Kerry Jeremy and Ricky Christopher.

It was the spin, however, strangely, that probably impressed more. Sulieman Benn, the spindly Barbadian, and his countryman, the more robust and definitely more animated Ryan Hinds, both left-arm orthodox spinners, gave great accounts of themselves. Between them, they bowled 41 overs for only 125 runs, and taking five wickets. These two young men could be a good fillip for West Indian cricket in the future.

Overall, the first day of this important game was even, but since the young West Indians were being exposed to this level for the first time, one would give them the better credit, but South Africa are just warming up. From recent history, better must come from South Africa when the Test series starts.