South Africa aim to extend dominance
Match factsThursday June 10 - 14, 2010
Start time 10.00am (14.00GMT)
South Africa's tour shifts a gear with the first Test at Port of Spain in Trinidad, but the disparity in current form between the two sides suggests that the hosts' struggle for a positive result could become even harder in the longer format. The South African team is even stronger in Tests than it is in one-day internationals, and after their 5-0 drubbing of a West Indian squad that seemed to have forgotten how to win in the one-day series, it appears that the coming contest will, if anything, be even more one-sided.
West Indies are in disarray, with several important players either injured or out of form, morale at rock-bottom, and disciplinary issues once again coming to the fore. It's hard to see how they could possibly turn things around in this series, but they will be hoping that the introduction of a couple of fresh faces to the team will help to spark a revival in their fortunes. Offspinner Shane Shillingford and fast bowler Nelon Pascal have been included in the squad, and Darren Bravo's good form on the A tour to Bangladesh - he was Man of the Series in the tri-series leg of the tour - lead to his call-up for the final three one-day games against the visitors. He wasn't quite able to carry his form over, making 63 runs in three innings - including an unbeaten 45 in the fourth ODI in Dominica, but he, at least, has recent runs under his belt.
Brendan Nash didn't reach 100 in the unofficial Test series against Bangladesh A, but was dismissed only once in four innings on the tour. His obdurate occupation of the crease could be a vital buffer between Chris Gayle's fireworks, Shivnarine Chanderpaul's steely accumulation, and a vulnerable lower middle order, especially in the absence of Ramnaresh Sarwan through injury.
The emphasis on occupation of the crease, rather than the pressure of trying to score runs quickly, could allow some South African players that have not been in the greatest touch on the tour so far, such as Graeme Smith and, to a lesser extent, JP Duminy to get back into the groove.
South Africa have clearly been a class apart from their opponents on this tour, particularly in their batting. The West Indies batsmen haven't displayed the application and shot selection necessary to compile big scores, as is evidenced by the disparity in the number of fifties and hundreds scored between the two teams in their limited-overs games. West Indies desperately need a something positive out of this series, but they face a mountainous task to overcome a South African Test outfit that has settled on a successful combination.
Form guide (last five completed matches)
West Indies LDLLL
South Africa LWWDL
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Shivnarine Chanderpaul was the only batsman to perform with any consistency in the one-day series - albeit one slightly curtailed through injury for him - in making 157 runs in three innings at 52.33, including two half-centuries. He has also been the most reliable member of West Indies' Test middle order for some time, and could be very tough for the South Africans to prise from the crease if he settles.
Morne Morkel was South Africa's bowler of the one-day series, picking up 11 wickets at just 15.90. The greater freedom given to fast bowlers in Tests, and the emphasis upon taking wickets, will only serve to emphasise the threat of his pace, bounce and menace, and he could well prove too much for a batting line-up that has already been traumatised by seven losses on the trot on South Africa's tour.
West Indies get to try out another set of combinations as the first of three Tests get underway, although injury has ruled Sarwan, Jerome Taylor, Adrian Barath and Fidel Edwards out of West Indies' plans. Travis Dowlin, who managed a half-century opening the batting against Australia in December, will slot in at the top of the order, while Brendan Nash will reclaim his place in the middle order. Narsingh Deonarine also managed some runs against Australia, as well as reasonable success in the ODI leg of South Africa's tour, and should get a look in. If Chris Gayle and Sulieman Benn haven't yet made up, Shane Shillingford could debut as the spinning option.
West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Travis Dowlin, 3 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Brendan Nash, 6 Dwayne Bravo (vice-capt), 7 Denesh Ramdin, 8 Darren Sammy, 9 Sulieman Benn/Shane Shillingford, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Ravi Rampaul.
The main contentious position in South Africa's line-up is at No. 6, with Ashwell Prince and JP Duminy both vying for the position. Prince has recent first-class experience with Lancashire, but with South Africa highly unlikely to play both Paul Harris and Johan Botha, the added bonus of Duminy's bowling could settle the question. The variation offered by Lonwabo Tsotsobe's left-arm seamers mean he will probably get in ahead of allrounder and right-arm seamer Ryan McLaren, assuming Wayne Parnell does not recover from injury in time .
South Africa (probable) 1 Graeme Smith, 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Hashim Amla, 6 Ashwell Prince/JP Duminy, 7 Mark Boucher, 8 Paul Harris, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Pitch and conditions
There should be life in this pitch for both fast and slow bowlers, although recently it has been particularly helpful to the spinners. It was here that Zimbabwe's battery of spinners kept West Indies to 79 for 7 in a Twenty20, and the last time a Test was played here - against England in March last year - spinners took 14 wickets in the match. The weather forecast is not good, however, and there is a good chance of interruptions until Sunday.
Stats and Trivia
- The last time these two sides meant in a Test match at this venue, in 2005, Makhaya Ntini bowled South Africa to an eight-wicket win with 13 wickets in the match. West Indies' last Test here was against England last year, when the hosts just managed to cling on for a series-clinching draw.
- Jacques Kallis has plundered 2073 runs in 21 Tests against West Indies at an average of 74.03, including seven hundreds and 11 fifties.
Quotes"Losing has become a habit, but we have to put that behind us and look forward to the Test series."
Chris Gayle will be hoping that his side can move on from a run of seven losses
"Winning is a habit, and when you get into tight games, and you are used to winning, you are able to limp over the line."
The opposite is true for Graeme Smith and his men, who have given their fans something to smile about after the disappointment of the World Twenty20
Liam Brickhill is an assistant editor at ESPN Cricinfo