West Indies under pressure to turn the corner
Match factsJune 18-22, 2010
Start time 10.00am (14.00GMT)
Seven games into the tour and West Indies still don't know how to beat South Africa, irrespective of the format. This West Indies team is a pale shadow of the one that fought bravely in Australia just a few months ago. Injuries to key players like Ramnaresh Sarwan and Fidel Edwards may have pegged their fortunes back a bit, but unfortunately, the other senior players look a deflated bunch. The intimidation from Chris Gayle is missing, so is the stodgy resistance from Shivnarine Chanderpaul.
Their capitulation for 102 in the first Test at Trinidad was a sorry sight, after their bowlers did a decent job to restrict South Africa to 352. Nelon Pascal is not a batsman, but his dismissal in both innings - attempting a one-legged Caribbean style hoick - was a comical, yet depressing sight if you were a West Indies supporter. Besides him, the specialists at the top were out bowled shouldering arms, Narsingh Deonarine's first-innings dismissal a case in point. Such shots don't give confidence that the team is out there to fight it out.
Despite that abject display, an unchanged team was named for the second Test. With the A team away in England, there wouldn't have been a large pool of players to pick from. The best they can do is to slot batsmen in positions they're more familiar with. Given their poor form, a draw at St Kitts will be as good as a victory. For inspiration, they need to run tapes of the Adelaide Test late last year when Chris Gayle carried his bat in the second innings to put his team in front.
South Africa on the hand have fewer worries and credit should go to the way Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel have forged such a deadly combination with the new ball. The slow pitches in the Caribbean haven't made them any less lethal. They showed what the home side lacked - bowlers with raw pace. The visitors, apart from catching up with the World Cup action at home, also celebrated their national youth day by coaching youngsters at a clinic at Warner Park.
Form guide (last five completed matches)
West Indies LLDLL
South Africa WLWWD
Watch out for...
Chris Gayle: The West Indies captain was talked about at length during the one-dayers on how his performances have a direct influence on the way the team plays. If he fires, the side's uplifted, but if he doesn't, the rest throw in the towel. Ideally, at least one among the others in the middle order will have to put his hand up and cover the slack. If Gayle has to show more responsibility, he can adopt a change in approach and shed his attacking instincts a bit. If he minimises the risks, he can bat longer and drop anchor, allowing the rest to bat around him. The Adelaide Test is an example of the recent past. Gayle has done it before and now it's his chance to lead by example.
Paul Harris: His role in Trinidad was made redundant with Steyn and Morkel hogging most of the wickets. He was preferred to Johan Botha for the Test, despite not being in sparkling form in the last few Tests. If the pitch takes turn, Harris could play an important role. Coach Corrie van Zyl identified some technical problems in Harris' action and said he would work on it to help him get more turn.
Kemar Roach, probably the fastest bowler in the region, was retained after missing the first game and the assumption is he has recovered from an ankle injury. If he's fit, he should walk in, replacing either Pascal or Ravi Rampaul. The under-performing middle order will worry West Indies, so there's a chance for Darren Bravo to come in place of probably Deonarine. Brendan Nash could be pushed down the order to No.5, where he's more comfortable.
West Indies (likely) 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Travis Dowlin, 3 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 4 Darren Bravo/Narsingh Deonarine, 5 Brendan Nash, 6 Dwayne Bravo (vice-capt), 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Sulieman Benn, 9 Shane Shillingford, 10 and 11 two among Ravi Rampaul/Kemar Roach/Nelon Pascal
South Africa are likely to play the same team. van Zyl said Harris will not be replaced by any other spinner.
South Africa (likely) 1 Graeme Smith (capt), 2 Alviro Petersen, 3 Jacques Kallis, 4 AB de Villiers, 5 Hashim Amla, 6 Ashwell Prince, 7 Mark Boucher (wk), 8 Paul Harris, 9 Dale Steyn, 10 Morne Morkel, 11 Lonwabo Tsotsobe
Pitch and conditions
The short boundaries at Warner Park could lead to a high-scoring Test, if the pitch is conducive enough. Rain intervened in Trinidad and showers are forecast for St Kitts too.
Stats and Trivia
- This venue has hosted only one Test so far, between West Indies and India in 2006. Centuries by Daren Ganga and Sarwan took West Indies to 581 and the bowlers put India under pressure, restricting India to below the follow-on target. West Indies opted to bat on and the game drifted towards a draw.
- West Indies last beat South Africa in an international match in 2007, the Port Elizabeth Test. Since then, the losing streak stands at 17, across all formats.
- There are milestones to be achieved - Jacques Kallis needs another 89 for 11,000 Test runs, Graeme Smith another 88 for 7000 runs and Gayle another 73 for 6000 runs.
"Before the first Test, we spoke about the fact that we were going to be tested, not having played Test cricket for quite a while. In a three-Test series the next match is just as crucial. We can't afford to take our foot off the gas at all."
"The batsmen can improve and a few of those 50s and 60s should have been centuries. I was impressed, however, with the manner in which we fought back after losing three wickets late on the first afternoon."
Corrie van Zyl reflects on the first Test
"We have to believe in ourselves and play good, hard cricket.We have to try and make the necessary adjustments for the next Test match."
Kanishkaa Balachandran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo