After a false dawn on Thursday, South Africa and West Indies will have a second attempt at getting their ODI series underway on Saturday when the two sides head to Buffalo Park in East London hoping the weather cooperates.
Usually a three match series which has now been reduced to a maximum of two doesn’t carry a lot of motivation or emphasis but we are getting closer to the World Cup coming around so there might be more meaning to these games.
You wouldn’t think that is the case for South Africa when you consider the squad they have chosen for this series. They might already have a good idea of who they are going to take to India with them later in the year, on the assumption they get the results over the remainder of this month which they need to secure automatic qualification for the World Cup. It might be that they will use the IPL to finalise their likely squad.
Even so, this is a team whose ODI record in recent times hasn’t been good hence why they are yet to automatically qualify for the World Cup. In saying that, they began the year with a series win over England so there might be signs of life in them, although many of the key contributors in that victory are not going to be around for this series, although given this doesn’t count towards the World Cup Super Series it might be understandable why.
After a horrible T20 World Cup, there is a lot of focus on West Indies in white ball cricket at the minute. They are a proud nation who might not expect to be winning everything in white ball cricket but they are probably justified in expecting to perform a hell of a lot better than they did in Australia in that T20 World Cup. 50 over cricket has often been the weaker of the two white ball formats but after that effort at the back end of last year, they have to be much more competitive in the ODI World Cup later in the year.
The problem that West Indies tend to have in 50 over cricket is their batters often get caught up in not knowing whether to bat time or crash, bang, wallop it and they often end up falling short of a required total. They look to have a nicely balanced squad in South Africa for this series but if there is going to be an issue which presents itself it could be a struggle in the death overs. There is certainly a chance for someone to show their hand at the death.
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This series might be about who isn’t here for South Africa as much as who is here. There is no Aidan Markram, Kagiso Rabada or Anrich Nortje who have been rested for these three matches and Keshav Maharaj will miss the series with injury.
West Indies have chosen to give a rest to Alzarri Joseph for this series but one day specialists Odean Smith, Romario Shepherd and Akeal Hosein come into the side. Shai Hope skippers the team for the first time and looks to have his strongest batting unit to call upon.
While it is fair to say that West Indies are anything but the most reliable team in the world, I do think they have a chance in this match when you consider that they will be facing a second string South Africa bowling unit and one which is missing a couple of key components in their middle order in Aiden Markram and Heinrich Klaasen. West Indies may not be the best 50 over team in the world but at least they are close to full strength for this one.
With the exception of Lungi Ngidi, there isn’t an out and out seamer in the South Africa squad with more than five ODIs to his name and that could leave them vulnerable to a West Indies team which could have Odean Smith batting at eight or deeper and one which has plenty of bowling options to get stuck into a team who have had a balance issue with the bat for a long while and where there doesn’t appear to be a genuine batting all-rounder in the side. At 10/3 I’ll pay to see how West Indies go.
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