Rain threatens Twenty20 decider
After losing the Test series 2-1 - a margin which doesn't explain just how weakly they capitulated in the last two Tests - West Indies approach the one-day series against South Africa determined to make amends, beginning with Friday's second Twenty20 in Johannesburg. Heavy and persistent rain on the highveld, however, could cause the match to be cancelled or reduced to a five-over thrash.
Assuming play is able to get underway, West Indies' fortunes largely depend on Chris Gayle, the captain, whose availability is still uncertain following the broken thumb which ruled him out of the third Test. Without Gayle's bravado as opener, nor his growing nous and "follow me" style of leadership, West Indies lack a killer punch against a South African side overflowing with confidence and mostly injury-free.
West Indies won the first Twenty20, another rain-affected bash back in December, when Jerome Taylor took 3 for 6 to cut South Africa's total to a meagre 58 for 8. Playing in that game (and conceding 19 from his two overs) was Shaun Pollock who announced his retirement from international cricket during the final Test in Durban, and he looks certain to play in all six matches for one final hurrah.
"Shaun himself manages it [emotion attached to last international appearance] very well - he's been very professional and clear about the way things need to be in the dressing room," Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, told supercricket.co.za. "His maturity shines through once again. We obviously want to send him off in the right way.
"We have huge respect for what Shaun has given us over time, as a player and as a person, and we want to see him celebrated in the right way. But it's also important for us to keep our heads straight and keep the emotion out of the games."
Joining Pollock is Justin Ontong, whose strong performances for his state side, the Lions, have earned him 518 runs at 37.00. The most intriguing call-up, however, is that of Morne Morkel who has recovered from the foot injury which curtailed his tour of Pakistan in October. With Morkel back and firing on all cylinders, it offers the tantalising prospect of South Africa fielding a genuinely fast new-ball pair - assuming, that is, Dale Steyn is picked.
In just five Tests this summer Steyn has taken 40 wickets but, so far, he has been rather shielded from the conveyor belt of one-dayers, appearing in only eight. But with Pollock retiring, it seems only right that Steyn is unleashed and the baton is passed on. West Indies, as ever, have it all to do.
South Africa (possible): Graeme Smith (capt), AB de Villiers, Jacques Kallis, JP Duminy, Justin Ontong, Mark Boucher (wk), Shaun Pollock, Albie Morkel, Johan Botha, Morne Morkel, Dale Steyn
West Indies (possible): Brenton Parchment, Devon Smith, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels, Runako Morton, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Dwayne Bravo (capt), Darren Sammy, Jerome Taylor, Daren Powell, Fidel Edwards