Polly gets set for farewell series

Shaun Pollock said he didn’t want his final round of international matches to be a “Polly parade” but it is inevitable that South Africa’s star all-rounder will be feted as he makes his last appearances at the country’s major grounds during a five-match one-day international series against the West Indies, which starts at Centurion on Sunday.

The series will be preceded by a Twenty20 international at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg on Friday.

Pollock was carried off the field by teammates after his final Test appearance against the same opponents in Durban last Saturday, ending a Test career that brought him 421 wickets and 3 781 runs.

Now Pollock (34) will seek to add to his 387 wickets and 3 476 runs in one-day internationals while soaking up the adulation expected to be showered on one of South Africa’s most popular cricketers.

The opportunity to pay homage to a departing stalwart is rare in South Africa. Other leading players of the post-apartheid era such as Allan Donald, Jonty Rhodes and Gary Kirsten either had their careers ended by injury or announced their retirement too late for a last hurrah.

“It’s very important that people celebrate what he’s given to South African cricket and what he’s achieved as an individual,” said captain Graeme Smith.

South Africa won a three-match Test series against the West Indies 2-1 and Smith acknowledged: “We will go into the one-day series as favourites but we know we will have to be at the top of our game because they have some dangerous one-day players.”

Arguably the most dangerous of all is West Indies skipper Chris Gayle, but the extent to which he plays a role is in doubt after he missed the third and final Test because of a broken thumb as well as hamstring trouble.

Gayle is unlikely to play in the Twenty20 match, which rules out a repeat of his thrilling century—which remains the only one in any 20-overs international—in the opening match of the World Twenty20 Championship at the Wanderers last September. Despite Gayle’s heroics, South Africa won by eight wickets.

In complete contrast to the September clash, which yielded 413 runs in 37.4 overs, the West Indies won a low-scoring match in Port Elizabeth at the start of the current tour when South Africa could only manage 58-8 in a rain-reduced 13-over game, with the West Indies losing five wickets before winning.

South Africa will have a potentially potent fast bowling attack, with the tall Morne Morkel added to their squad after recovering from a stress fracture of the left foot.
At some stage Morkel is expected to form a formidable partnership with Dale Steyn, who took 40 wickets in five Tests against New Zealand and the West Indies.

But South African coach Mickey Arthur has taken a cautious approach to Steyn as a one-day bowler. He was not part of South Africa’s World Cup squad last year and played in only one out of three one-day internationals against New Zealand earlier in the season.

Pollock, though, looks set to play in all five matches provided he is not injured, culminating in what is expected to be an emotional occasion at the Wanderers on February 3.—AFP

Squads:

South Africa: Graeme Smith (captain), Herschelle Gibbs, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Justin Ontong, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock, Albie Morkel, Johan Botha, Andre Nel, Makhaya Ntini, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Charl Langeveldt.

West Indies: Chris Gayle (captain), Dwayne Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Marlon Samuels, Runako Morton, Brenton Parchment, Devon Smith, Denesh Ramdin, Patrick Browne, Darren Sammy, Rawl Lewis, Jerome Taylor, Daren Powell, Fidel Edwards, Ravi Rampaul, Sewnarine Chattergoon.

Fixtures:

January 18: Twenty20 international, Johannesburg (day-night)

January 20: First one-day international, Centurion (day)

January 25: Second one-day international, Cape Town (day-night)

January 27: Third one-day international, Port Elizabeth (day)

February 1: Fourth one-day international, Durban (day-night)

February 3: Fifth one-day international, Johannesburg (day)

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