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West Indies vs South Africa 2021

A review of West Indies vs South Africa in 2021

Craig Cozier
Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock lead South Africa off the field after their win against West Indies, West Indies vs South Africa, 2nd Test, Gros Islet, 4th day, June 21, 2021

Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock lead South Africa off the field after their win against West Indies  •  RANDY BROOKS/AFP/Getty Images

Test matches (2): West Indies 0 (-6pts), South Africa 2 (120pts)
Twenty20 internationals (5): West Indies 2, South Africa 3
A tour imperilled by chaos at Cricket South Africa, then by an untimely Covid spike that necessitated logistical gymnastics from the West Indian board, ended in double success for the visitors: a comprehensive Test sweep followed by Twenty20 victory in a series that went to the wire. The Tests were South Africa's first in the Caribbean for 11 years, and their first visit of any kind since they were part of a one-day tri-series in 2016. The matches were originally slated for Trinidad, but thanks to coronavirus they were shifted late on to St Lucia and Grenada. To the relief of Cricket West Indies, everything passed off without a hitch.
One oddity was that the games were part of the 2019-21 World Test Championship, even though the second started on the same day as the WTC final between India and New Zealand in Southampton. Thanks to an over-rate penalty, West Indies actually lost points. South Africa had slipped to seventh in the rankings after losing ten of their previous 13 Tests, but dominated both matches, even though West Indies had climbed above them following impressive victories in Bangladesh in February, and a home draw against Sri Lanka.
The South Aficans' hostile pacemen - Kagiso Rabada, Anrich Nortje and Lungi Ngidi - found two lively pitches in St Lucia to their liking, and shared 27 wickets. They were helped by slick catching in the cordon, which ensured Dean Elgar made a successful start as permanent Test captain. And when West Indies belatedly showed brief signs of a rearguard, slow left-armer Keshav Maharaj produced a hat-trick, only South Africa's second in a Test.
Elgar's appointment liberated Quinton de Kock, who had looked burdened by his role as all-format skipper-cum-keeper. He batted beautifully throughout, starting with an unbeaten 141 in the First Test. Then came an equally confident 96 to set the tone in the Second; he added 255 at a strike-rate of 141 in the T20s. "He was the X factor," said South Africa's delighted coach, Mark Boucher. "The outfield was very slow during his 141: that could have been 200. And the 96 was worth 120-130."
West Indies were simply not good enough with the bat in the Tests. Kraigg Brathwaite, the captain, was unable to build on a promising series against Sri Lanka, and totals of 97, 162, 149 and 165 - with just two half-centuries - showed up the imperfect techniques which coach Phil Simmons admitted needed work. Brathwaite was blunt: "We didn't bat well. Full stop." The bowling was a different story. Kemar Roach led the attack in favourable conditions, while 19-year-old Jayden Seales showed promise in his maiden series. But they couldn't make up for the batting deficiencies.
The T20s were harder fought, but West Indies (with Jason Holder the only survivor from the Test defeats) were undone by quality spin and the red-hot form of de Kock. Left-arm wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi went for just four an over, and took seven wickets, as South Africa won their first T20 series under Boucher after five defeats. Temba Bavuma, having recovered from hamstring and finger injuries that kept him out of the Tests, basked in a 3-2 victory on his first assignment as 20-over captain.
The first innings of each match was in the 160s, but West Indies hit 53 sixes to South Africa's 23, and scored 62% of their runs in boundaries. However, their high-risk approach also frittered away winning positions. "We had three opportunities to try to chase down 160-odd, and we couldn't get over the line," said captain Kieron Pollard, as he eyed the upcoming defence of the T20 World Cup his side won early in 2016. "The most disappointing thing is that we keep making the same mistakes, and that's the definition of insanity."