Confident Proteas eyes Test series win over Windies
South Africa have every reason to start their three-Test series against the West Indies at Queen’s Park Oval on Thursday in a confident mood.
The South Africans swept the preceding limited-overs matches, comprising two Twenty20 and five one-day internationals.
Though the visitors would concede that Tests are far different, they enter the series with the confidence of returning to the winning habit, and the full knowledge that their opponents appear to be in disarray.
But the Proteas’ vice-captain, Jacques Kallis, was still cautious about a West Indies side that is quite unpredictable.
“This is a very different form of the game, and in many ways this is a fresh start to the tour,” he said. “The West Indies can be a very dangerous side, and it is important that we set our standard from the start.
“We’ve just got to be on the top of the game, and control it, and if we play to our true potential, we will walk away with the series.”
No doubt the West Indies have been under pressure from their demanding public, which has become sick not so much by the losses, but the manner in which their side has meekly surrendered matches from positions of comfort.
It was clearly evident throughout the limited-overs matches, where the West Indies could easily have won one of the T20s, and two or three of the ODIs, had they played more professionally.
“When we watch South Africa, we know they are beatable,” said embattled West Indies captain Chris Gayle.
“We came close, and we fell short, but one positive we can take away is that we know they are beatable. We just hope that we can change things around for the Tests.
“We can beat them. We have done it once in South Africa, so there is no reason we can’t beat them on home soil.”
Naturally, both sides have made changes to their line-ups to boost their chances in the longest format of the game.
The South Africans have strengthened their batting with the choice of Ashwell Prince in the middle-order ahead of left-hander David Miller.
They have also fortified their bowling, with Paul Harris replacing Roelof van der Merwe and Wayne Parnell returning to the line-up for veteran Charl Langeveldt.
No sweeping changes
The West Indies selectors have resisted the urge to make sweeping changes, with left-handed batsman Brendan Nash, as well as the uncapped pair of off-spinner Shane Shillingford and fast bowler Nelon Pascal shoring up the bulk of the limited-overs squad.
South Africa have dominated West Indies in Tests since their re-entry into international cricket following international isolation. They have won 14 and lost three of the 22 matches between the two sides, and two of the wins came at Port-of-Spain in 2001 and 2005 in the two Tests the sides have played here.
West Indies have slumped to six losses and five draws in their last 11 Tests, after their sensational innings and 23-run victory over England last year at Kingston.
Nine of the last 10 Tests at this venue have finished in an outright win.
Fortunately for South Africa, the West Indies have been on the right side on only two occasions, and last year’s match against England ended in a tense draw.
The pitch typically offers a wide range of behaviour for the bowlers, with swing and lateral movement for the fast men giving way to a spinner’s paradise over the last couple of days.
With the Test series being played in the opening month of the Caribbean storm season, the weather report makes unhappy reading, with scattered and isolated thunderstorms apparently on the horizon.
West Indies (from): Chris Gayle (captain), Dwayne Bravo (vice-captain), Sulieman Benn, Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine, Travis Dowlin, Brendan Nash, Nelon Pascal, Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Darren Sammy, Shane Shillingford
South Africa (from): Graeme Smith (captain), Jacques Kallis (vice captain), Hashim Amla, Johan Botha, Mark Boucher, Abraham deVilliers, Jean-Paul Duminy, Paul Harris, Ryan McLaren, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Alviro Peterson, Ashwell Prince, Dale Steyn, Lonwabo Tsotsobe—Sapa-AFP